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Quick Response Manufacturing
Part 1 of 5

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All manufacturing companies that are part of a supply chain making product for the retail market are probably implementing some aspects of the Quick Response (QR) philosophy. Such companies often have products that are subject to the vagaries of fashion or seasonal demand. QR becomes particularly significant when companies have lengthy or slow production processes that preclude dra­matic reductions in lead time from the application of the classical techniques of Just-In-Time. The fiber/textile/ apparel/retail chain is probably the primary example of an industry where QR is a major program or concern.
The true purpose of QR is to improve the supplier respon-siveness to retail sales demand by achieving:

• Information acceleration and integration
• Lead time reduction
• Waste elimination
• Minimum inventory
• Quality improvements
• Lowest total cost

The generally recognized tools or techniques of QR are:

• Technology to improve information, communication, speed, and accuracy
• Partnerships between customer and the various levels of supplier
• Other practices and techniques to assist in waste reduction and quality improvement

Unfortunately, much of the QR publicity and literature focuses only on the communication technology, such as EDI, barcode and the like. Other appropriate, and possibly more important aspects of JIT/TQM, are given far less emphasis than they merit. This is reflected by the fact that many QR projects are suffering from:

• One sided (retailer dominated) partnerships
• Overemphasis on technology, such as EDI
• Lack of focus on internal practices or improvements
• Insufficient examination of business system functions/ techniques

For example, EDI may speed things up, but is the informa­tion any better? Point of sale is the place to capture demand data, but how accurate is it when promotions or bad buying decisions affect product availability at the retailer's pre­mises? A further example of misplaced QR emphasis is to acclaim the need and ability to react, often at the expense of proactive planning. In many instances, although the need for people to work smarter is acknowledged, the
business systems functions or improvements needed to support these efforts are not fully recognized.

The objective of this paper is to try to apply some balance to the real needs of QR, by reviewing the business and P & 1C systems functions that may require change to support QR improvements. In fact, this paper is directed toward a phrase that we are using in the Textile and Apparel SIG (Specific Industry Group): "TQR." Total Quick Response is more aligned to World Class Manufacturing than just faster communications and reactive lead times.

In this review, we will look at eight application areas of information systems:

• Forecasting
• Customer order entry/servicing
• Production/materials planning
• Production activity control
• Product costing and contribution analysis
• Purchasing
• Performance measurements
• System customization to match operational procedures

The views and suggestions in this paper are not just personal opinions, but include contributions and ideas from very well qualified associates and' professional ac­quaintances. In particular, I would like to mention my colleagues on the committee of the Textile & Apparel Specific Industry Group, who have been unstinting in their efforts for our industry. They have created and conduct an outstanding "QR Implementation Workshop" to assist the types of company mentioned in this paper. It .focuses on Total QR, practices as well as technology, with a true workshop orientation toward participant discussion and "how to" emphasis.

To Be Continued


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