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Work In Progress, Difficult To Manage? Think Again!

I have noticed through my experience and that of my peers that managing the WIP or Work In Progress, is considered a difficult task. Operations Managers often complaint of many issues, such as, being unable to track the material, the shifting of bottlenecks, higher machine downtime, higher cycle time, higher material consumption and the list can go on and on. The reason why some of these issues exist or are perceived to exist is because of the inability to properly track the material on the production line, the inability to know the machine status in real-time and the glitches that appear in a supposedly rock solid planning due to a myriad of issues. It is this feeling of being in the dark, coupled with the unpredictable nature of day-to-day operations that make it hard to manage the work in progress.
But if we analyze the abovementioned statement, is it really the nature of operation or the actual work that is the problem area, or is it something else? Well, I believe that the nature of work and type of tasks have nothing to do with managers struggling to manage the work in progress. Yes, I think it is the lack of actionable and potent information that drives most managers crazy when it comes to managing the WIP. When you think about any process and by any process I mean any process, manufacturing or service, what makes managers fly is the information they have, to act upon and take decisions. Even in the most unconventional processes what makes them work is the information derived from the process and careful analysis of the process metrics. The need to have a continuous flow of information from the process has been realized by many industries.
However the actual work-in-progress has been neglected by most companies, be it the process owner or the IT firm developing so called solutions for them. I believe that WIP is an extremely important facet of any process in fact it is the blood that runs through the veins called machines and supports the function of the body which is the process. WIP should be carefully tracked, monitored and analyzed; this will help detect problems before they become serious and lead to an overall improvement in process efficiency and ultimately throughput. But, who can you rely on for developing an information solution that can not only help you analyze your WIP but a solution that can help you realize true gains out of your process? Well, for that you need a technology partner that understands operations management and the unpredictable nature of WIP.
For this very reason choosing a simple software company does not fulfill the need, you should consider someone who knows how a factory works, what the importance of process metrics is and how WIP should be managed. You need an automation expert that is well acquainted with how the flow in the factory happens and why bottlenecks get created. Having said that the most important part is to realize the need to have real-time actionable information from the WIP and then choose the right partner for your process. If you have any suggestions regarding this Blog or questions about how to manage you WIP just write into us at or just leave you comment on this web-page.

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