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Lean MRP, what would that look like?

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Manufacturing planning and the typical software associated with that activity don't seem to connect as well as they could with the Lean concepts.

If your traditional MRP style production software does little to help you focus on Lean manufacturing, you're not alone. In our specialty printing business we focus on Lean principles daily and maintain low stock levels at most points in our process (we use the Toyota Production System principles as our guide). Despite the fact that our production and thinking is based upon the “pull” philosophy, our production software (designed for the print industry) is an MRP system that does not provide a “nimble” way to adjust to lean requirements.

Most of our Lean thinking is done outside our software systems. We have teams that understand value stream mapping and routinely focus on specific process areas, but our production software does not include premade tools to help this activity. In an attempt to move the software closer to Lean, we have recently begun to focus on the real time data collected by our production system and are putting together ways to generate better real time indicators that will help direct some of our value stream mapping. Although I’m sure there are many production processes that could have their value stream mapping automated, we are a long way yet from dispensing with my team’s manual analysis, at least with our current MRP style software.

derek-pic - Software Advice.jpgDerek Singleton (ERP Analyst, Software Advice) highlights this interesting conflict between Lean production and traditional MRP software in his blog entry. Have a read and leave your thoughts on this software challenge.

I’ll continue to watch the software developments in this area with some interest and hope to see a better middle ground where MRP can meet Lean. Maybe the term “Lean MRP” will become more than just a Body Builder’s dream.