Example project: how to manage an order of 4000 flags?

A few years ago, the M&M Graphic team faced a major challenge in terms of production volume. Following a call for tenders for a large, well-known gas station chain in Eastern Canada, M&M learned that it had offered the most attractive proposal for the client, in terms of quality and price. It was then that we realized that we had to produce 4000 flags! Of course, the production would be spread over a period of several weeks, even several months.

Production logistics to process a volume order

Who says production volume says planning and communication. There are several important things to consider: how many different visuals will there be? What are the batches and volume of each to be produced? How many flags can we produce per day? Per week? Per month ? Do we have the necessary equipment in stock? What are the lead times for ordering raw materials from suppliers? How long is required for container delivery by ship? But most importantly: how much of each batch does the customer need first? Is this a promotional display for a new product launch?

The Secret to Success: Organization

There is no miracle recipe or magic formula to succeed in such a project. The only way to effectively manage a volume order is to be well organized and to make decisions in complicity and in agreement with the customer, according to his priorities. You have to explain the production constraints, or rather the physical and time limits with which you have to negotiate, then find the meeting point between these constraints and the customer’s priorities. Thus, we arrive at proposals that suit everyone and that are realistic in terms of time and quantities to be delivered.

In this case, it was agreed with the client that we would produce 1,000 flags per month for four months. This was a first agreement with condition of confirmation following verification of inventories and delivery times for orders of equipment by boat from China.

Inventory management

Managing the inventory of rolls of fabric is one thing, but managing the storage of 4,000 flag poles is another! M&M Graphic normally holds a few hundred flag poles of all sizes and designs. Orders range from 1 to 50 flag units per order typically; so keeping more than 1000 poles in stock would only clutter the workshop unnecessarily and would prove to be a management error, it was believed. But how to proceed to order 3000 additional poles necessary for such a project? Firstly, the flag pole supplier is located in China. Normally, orders are made twice a year to fill inventories before and after the high season and everything arrives in containers by boat. This type of order requires 3 to 6 months to arrive safely. In addition, it is not the Port of Montreal but the Port of Vancouver, which is 4,550 kilometers from Montreal. This means that you not only have to wait for customs clearance to be completed once the order arrives in Vancouver, but you also have to allow 4 to 5 additional business days for delivery by truck by land.

Know how to manage priorities: what to do when?

It was then that the production team decided to proceed with the order of flag poles as a priority so that it did not delay the deadlines promised to the customer. Then, we also made the customer aware that it was impossible to promise a precise delivery date for the 3000 poles, being subject to the vagaries of the weather, customs clearance time, truck transport, and all the other factors on which we had little or no control.

Stick to the agreement and production organization

Once all the upstream production planning is complete, the bulk of the work is done. Obviously, the production is impressive in itself, but if each manager manages his responsibilities well and everything has been planned perfectly, all that will remain is to deal with the unexpected. But that will be the subject of a future article.

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