Every organization wants the right amount of inventory. If having too much of it is the most common problem, having too little is the most common fear. Lean organizations combat this imbalance with the development and implementation of a Plan for Every Part, or PFEP. The PFEP provides visibility into important part-level data that traditional MRP’s do not, which is why it’s a fantastic tool for driving continuous improvement in an organization. But while the PFEP is great at shedding light on opportunities for improvement, it still needs to be maintained and improved itself.
3 Steps to Improve Your Plan for Every Part
When an organization develops a PFEP, it usually selects a familiar and sortable electronic template like Excel, or a web-based application for more enhanced collaboration and revision history tracking. That familiarity and ease of use is paramount to the tool’s success. Without the accessibility on the production floor, the PFEP is just another document trapped in a management silo. However, while the PFEP is a cross-functional tool, an important step to improving it is ensuring the data is controlled.
Step 1: Control Access
The PFEP’s greatest attribute – its accessibility – may also become its greatest flaw. It’s important to make sure the document is not too accessible to various departments. If all who initiate changes are permitted to make them, the “paper trail” becomes difficult to manage. This creates accountability and data integrity issues, which can lead to serious mistakes in inventory control. One quick and permanent improvement is to appoint a PFEP person with the sole authority to track and make changes to the document.
Step 2: Consider the Scope
Considering the scope of parts the PFEP is meant to work with is another way to improve the plan. Depending on the size of the production facility, it might not make sense to use a single PFEP. A diversified plant with unique manufacturing cells and storage locations may not be wise to treat all material flows the same way. Organizations should constantly be re-visiting the scope of all lean tools, including the PFEP, in their facilities to ensure the proper scope is being addressed.
Step 3: Get Feedback on PFEP Processes & Changes
In any lean transformation process, it’s important to interview the team members the changes affect most, and to do so in person. This is important to the PFEP for a couple of reasons. First, lean has a strong reputation in many management circles around the world, but it’s easier to buy into when you have a bird’s eye view of the processes. For those working a handful of processes each day, the direction may not seem so clear. Getting buy-in on the PFEP is the only way associates can use the tool to its full potential.
Second, in-person interviews and site walks can also yield information that may not be visible in the data, or maybe yield information that won’t appear at all. Management may be busy celebrating a 20 percent cost savings by optimizing the bin sizes at the line, but warehouse associates may be lamenting the additional work created. Management may also make a trip to a warehouse, after countless meetings, with the determination that the boxes on the shelves contain too much volume, and that the supplier has had the organization stocking air for years. Chances are, everyone on the floor knew that already, even if the financial implications weren’t fully realized.
The PFEP was born out of need to “right size” inventories. That is, ensuring the correct amount of inventory is present at each stage of a part’s life cycle. Bloated inventories are a drag on profitability and operating cash flows, while inventories that are too lean can result in costly stock outs. No one wants to shut down a plant for a single $0.10 part, but no one wants to scrap or store 10,000 of them either.
Ultimately, the PFEP is a visual tool that allows stakeholders across the organization to make decisions on material flow and inventory levels, and any effort to improve the PFEP must consider how it would affect the organization’s ability to use the tool as a launch pad for continuous improvement efforts.