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Do You Have Too Many Workcentres?

When I am trying to figure out why a client's MRP / ERP system isn't helping them to deliver their products on time, their workcentres often creep into the equation.

The configuration of workcentres can make a big difference to effectively managing a shop floor environment, but even before that is understood the volume of workcentres is a serious consideration to be thought through.

Splitting up your manufacturing facility into workcentres is never a right or wrong decision. The quality of your thinking about this however will affect the ease of managing the flow of production and the following pointers are listed here for those of you who may be in a bit of muddle with work to lists, routings and capacity planning.

Things to consider:

  • Like the resolution of a digital camera, having too few workcentres won't allow you to manage bottlenecks. Try to avoid having one workcentre called 'factory' or too few that won't allow you to see what is happening with your production orders.
  • Following on, and on the other end of the scale, don't have too many workcentres. This will give you greater accuracy when planning work but will most likely give you an absolute headache when you come to balancing work loads and creating your routings. Strive to achieve the middle ground (enough splitting up of the factory to be a manageable endeavour going forward).
  • Review your system to see if you can split your factory up into high level process areas and low level workcentres, so that you can get a good balance of high and low level planning.
  • If there is a reference system / code that goes along with your workcentre then think through the numbering system in advance. Don't just put numbers / digits into those fields, think through how you want them to appear when you are managing the data later on (logical grouping etc...).
  • Lock down the privileges in the system so that other users can't create / adjust workcentres to accommodate problems. Likewise, changes in workcentre configuration should be agreed by a management team rather than just tinkered with.
Getting your workcentres right will have a knock on effect in several areas. Routings will be clearer and more consistent. Work to lists will become useful tools and your capacity planning tools will start to make sense.

It is definitely worth taking the time to get this balance right, even if it means taking a step back from where you are now.

Giles Johnston
Author of 'Making MRP Work'