MRP II System Requirements
One of the complaints frequently expressed by
executives and engineers at continuous flow plants is that MRP II
software vendors "don't understand my business." This
was initially a reaction to attempts during the 1970's and 80's to
force fit commercially available discrete MRP II packages into
process environments. A number of feature-rich process MRP II
packages have since hit the market to alleviate this problem. When
this complaint is heard today, it is generally in reference to the
lack of industry vertical packages, e.g., textile MRP, chemical
MRP, or food MRP. During the next decade, this gap will be filled
in two ways. First, process MRP II packages currently in existence
will grow in functionality to include vertical industry features.
Secondly, a new generation of more focused packages will spring
into existence to service specific industries.
Continuous flow manufacturers today are
comfortable buying and using process MRP II systems. They are
generally seeing an 80% to 90% fit to their operations from
off-the-shelf products. The remaining 10%-20% shortfall consists
of vertical industry requirements or company-specific
requirements. These are addressed through modifications or
tailoring of the packaged software, or by creating new custom
add-ons. IS personnel work with 4GL development tools or CASE
tools provided by the vendor to fit the package to their company.
When evaluating process MRP II packages,
evaluation teams look at a number of factors including
implementation training and consulting support provided by the
vendor, financial stability, the number of installed users, and
the underlying technology used to run the package. From a product
functionality standpoint, there is a standard list of features
required by continuous flow manufacturers which includes the
• Potency and Assay: The system should
track inventory of active ingredients in both physical and
active units of measure. Potency is recorded initially when a
purchased lot is received, then adjusted and tracked internally.
Allocations to packaging
lines or to sales shipments compensate by
allocating more of a weaker lot.
• Unit of Measure Conversions: The
planning, production, and receipt of a given item should be
possible in any unit of measure, provided appropriate
conversions are defined either generically, or by item or lot.
• Lot Control: For producers of
food-grade products, this is an PDA requirement. To support
recalls, the genealogy of any item should be traceable forward
and backward through the process.
• Status Control: The QC lab must be
able to disposition lots by status code—e.g., approved,
rejected, quarantined, on hold. Statuses should have logic
associated with them to prevent netting and allocation where
• Grade Control: In industries like
food, textiles, and papermaking, grades must be assignable to
lots. For example, paper manufacturers control grades of paper
by adding bright-eners and fillers to pulp. In food
processing, grading is often a final sorting process based on
color or size.
• Formula and Recipe Management: This
is an area that clearly differentiates process MRP II packages
from discrete packages. Requirements include scaling, version
control, and the ability to have separate formulas for
planning, costing, and lab development.
• Coproducts and Byproducts: An
unlimited number of different outputs should be allowed from
any step in the process. Coproducts may represent different
grades or packaging options for a primary product. By-products
may include acids, salts, or other waste products that are
scrapped, reprocessed, or sold.
• Process Costing: The continuous
flow manufacturer is not interested in shift by shift or day
by day costs assignable to work orders or jobs. Trying to
force fit a job costing methodology involves arbitrary
allocations from cost pools which don't represent true actuals
anyway. Of greater importance is the aility to capture
activity (receipts, usage, shipments) on a weekly or monthly
basis, assign costs on a standard or LIFO or FIFO basis, and
• Master Scheduling: A high-level
plan should be maintained either as a series of dates and
quantities, or as firm planned orders. These have little
maintenance associated with them, so the planner can easily
change or delete them at will. What is not acceptable is to
require work orders or batch orders in the planning cycle
which must be released and closed out.
• Resource Planning: Assistance is needed in planning
long-term consumption of critical production resources like
electricity, labor, and aggregate plant capacity. Charts or
graphical screens should be provided to allow planners to
quickly assess the impact of different strategies on the
consumption of these resources.
To be Continued
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