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Jan Pettigrew

ROLE: Operations Director

In a few minutes, you will be attending a meeting of a working group chaired by Alex Rheingold (your MD) to discuss the possible adoption of an MRP2 system in Oakland. The initial meeting will be followed by a consultant's presentation and then a final meeting to take a decision.

Since you started way back as a shop-floor lathe operator, you have always worked in the furniture industry. It is unique and distinct, partly because of the heterogeneity and special character of wood (the major material) and partly because of the design/ fashion element and the resulting intensity of craft skill. You have been on a BPICS (British Planning and Inventory Control Society) course on MRP, but would it really work in Oakland's? However, the improved production control claimed for these systems is certainly very attractive.

You're fighting a running (but friendly) battle with the Chief Designer, Rowan Gregory. Rowan keeps fiddling about with the specifications for no good reason. These changes necessitate slightly different machining operations and mean that the shop floor have to be continually given new instructions. It also means that a plethora of different piece parts exist, ostensibly for the same bit of furniture. This is a monitoring and control nightmare, and has caused some horror stories: once a batch of tables was assembled with the wrong legs.

Sam Newton, the Sales and Distribution Manager, puts in inflated sales forecasts to try to speed up the assembly process and hence delivery times. This unfortunately causes huge inventory holding costs, and so you don't take Sam's sales too seriously. It's better to keep the shop floor busy and working on reasonable-sized batches. The present company monitoring systems don't help. They run in purely monetary terms, with a target of £45,000 value of production a day (in terms of ultimate sales prices).

You are concerned that the present system depends too much Robin Johnston, the Production Scheduler. Robin quite clearly enjoys the influence afforded by special knowledge of the finished goods inventory and makes the most of it. But what would happen if he fell under a bus? Or took a dislike to one of your policies? You shudder to think.