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The day after Chris started adding a routing to the MRP system, we had the following conversation.

"Good morning Chris. Are you ready to finish that routing today?"

"Good morning Hutch. I guess I'm ready, since I don't have any other choice."

"I had an idea this morning that might help you to understand what you are doing."

"That's great! I can use all the help I can get with this stupid machine."

"You drive a Nissan, don't you?"


"The car you drive to work, Chris. Isn't it a new Nissan?"

"Well, yes. But what has that got to...?"

"Weren't you driving a Toyota or something similar before?"


"How much training was required before you learned how to drive the new car?"

"Well, none."

"You got in the same way, the key fit in the ignition switch the same way, in the same location. They both


shifted the same way. The differences were minor."

"Yeah, that's pretty much true."

"Well, Chris, switching from a Mac to a PC is about the same as switching from one car to another. We think of them as different, and the computer marketing people sure try to make us think that they are different, but they are basically the same type of unit."


"Now, when you sat down at this PC to start creating routings in our MRP system you probably were think­ing about this machine as just another PC-based soft­ware package. Am I right?"

"Yeah, Hutch, but this system is difficult to use and certainly not user-friendly."

"Right. In fact there are times that it is barely user-tolerant. Suppose you got into your user-friendly car and drove over to the airport and climbed into the cock­pit of a 747. Could you fly it?"

"I wouldn't know where to start with all of those di­als and switches."

"It's the same thing here. When you turn on this PC, you are not using PC software, you are connected, real time, to the mainframe. You are at the controls of a very complex and sophisticated computer system. At the same time the MRP system is accepting and verifying your rout­ing input, it is tracking hundreds of thousands of parts. It is tracking what we are building right now and plan­ning what we will be building next month, and the next."

"All I want to do is create a routing so we can print the work order to tell the shop what work to do."

"Do you mean give the technician step-by-step di­rections?"


"Your routing will do that, of course, and it would not really matter if the work order came from your PC or from the MRP system. But our MRP system is doing much more than just providing the work steps. It is scheduling that one work order into the work center with all of the other work orders that are released, and prioritizing which should be accomplished first. It is planning and scheduling parts to be staged to support that work order. It is planning the use and reuse of that part you are building over the entire planning horizon."

"When I try to do one simple thing, the system re­quires all of this additional data."

"If you tried to fly a 747 manually you would find that there is just too much to remember to do during a long flight. By taking the time to program the automatic pilot, most of the work is done for the pilot, who sim­ply monitors the flight. MRP works much the same way. You are supplying the data so the system will automati­cally print a picklist at just the right time, will allocate parts and resources only when they are needed, and will report exceptions to the people who are monitoring the production activity."

"So, Hutch, you're telling me that I am not going to be able to set down in front of this PC and pull up ahelp menu to figure out this system by this afternoon." "Right. As a matter of fact, let's go back to the 747. The pilot of a 747 first learned to fly in a training airplane and then worked his or her way up to the large, complex passenger aircraft with 300 people on board. It took me more than a year of study and tak­ing tests to achieve a professional certification in pro­duction and inventory management. After that, I was able to step through our MRP system and understand the logic. And being able to figure out what is hap­pening is important. There are close to a thousand different transactions supported by the system. Most of us can memorize only 30 or 40 of them. But by understanding the basic concepts of MRP, I can usu­ally find the transaction that I need from the menu screens."

"What 300 people are you talking about?" "Well, actually I was thinking of the airline passen­gers in my illustration, but the analogy still holds up. As an engineer you are setting the stage for everyone else who uses the system. You decide the lead time asso­ciated with the part, and the planner has to use that number of days when planning, creating, and releasing a work order for the floor. Other people use that data when planning to buy another part or refurbish an ex­isting part. Still other people use that data when plan­ning the maintenance time available within the work center. And for each part number and routing, you make not just one decision, but dozens."

"I'm beginning to feel overwhelmed." "Not to worry, Chris. I'll talk you through it until you are comfortable with the transactions. And as you understand basic MRP logic better, it really will begin to make sense."

"Yeah, I think it's time to start taking flying lessons." It would be unrealistic to assume that each of these engineers and technicians will run out and study for a production control professional certification. How­ever, a course that relates the concepts of MRP to the day-to-day decisions and data transactions that are required may be useful. They start asking the right questions when the computer refuses to print their work order.


After this time of introductions, I gave the pre-test, which consisted of 20 questions from the material that would be covered in the course. The answers were placed on part one of an answer sheet and put away for later use.

After the pre-test we went directly into the content of the course.

To Be Continued

For balance of this article, click on the below link:

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