Center for Quick Response Manufacturing

Quick Response Manufacturing:

A powerful tool for reducing lead times in all phases of manufacturing and office operations

Quick Response Manufacturing (QRM) is a companywide strategy to reduce lead times across your enterprise. It can bring your products to market more quickly and secure your business prospects by helping you compete in a rapidly changing manufacturing arena. It will increase profitability by reducing non–value–added time, cutting inventory and increasing return on investment.

QRM – Not Another Buzzword

QRM is not just another buzzword. In fact, QRM builds on the foundations of strategies like Lean and Six Sigma. It enables your company to be more competitive in manufacturing custom-engineered products in low or varying volumes at high quality and short lead times.

See how QRM complements Lean across the enterprise.

QRM Center

The QRM Center is a partnership between companies, faculty and students at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, dedicated to the research and implementation of lead time reduction principles.

Learn more about what we do and how to join us.


Since 1993, the QRM Center has worked with more than 300 companies to reduce lead times. For many, QRM implementation brought some impressive results.

Check results reported by QRM companies and read what industry professionals have to say about them.

Upcoming Events

Introduction to POLCA

Date: April 8, 2020
Location: Fluno Center, Madison, WI

POLCA is a simple visual production control system designed for high-mix, low-volume environments.

Presenter: Professor Rajan Suri, Founding Director, QRM Center

Registration deadline: April 1, 2020

Please Note: This event has been postponed due to the escalating COVID-19 outbreak.  A rescheduled event date will be announced as soon as possible.

Presentation of Student Team Projects with Industry

Date: April 28, 2020
Location: Fluno Center, Madison, WI

An exclusive, members-only half-day program showcasing the tangible results of student projects with industry conducted by the QRM Center.  See event page for project details.

Registration deadline: Tuesday, April 21, 2020

Please Note: This event is likely to be conducted online as a webinar rather than at the Fluno Center to comply with social distancing guidelines.  Details will be released as soon as possible.

QRM News

Quick Response Manufacturing (QRM) Principles Enable Promega Corporation to Aid in Development of New Coronavirus Test

Promega Corporation of Madison, Wisconsin was recently recognized by its customer, Utah-based Co-Diagnostics, Inc. for the support Promega custom manufacturing provided in the rapid development and launch of the new Logix Smart™ COVID-19 Test. This test is now approved and available in Europe as an in vitro diagnostic and continues to advance toward emergency use clearance as an in vitro diagnostic in the US as well as India.  Co-Diagnostics used the Promega PCR Optimization Kit to refine its custom master mix for coronavirus testing. The Promega Custom Operations team then manufactured, QC tested, dispensed and packed the customized PCR assay reagents under the highest quality standards IN LESS THAN 10 BUSINESS DAYS.

Promega Corporation is a member of the Center for Quick Response Manufacturing (QRM) at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and company leaders credit the use of QRM lead time reduction principles for dramatic improvements in their ability to respond quickly to unique customer orders and requests. The QRM Center is a partnership between industry, faculty and students dedicated to the development and implementation of lead time reduction principles. According to Promega Senior Manager Kristina Pearson, who oversaw implementation of QRM at the company, “As Promega’s custom manufacturing business continues to grow, we understand that lead time reduction is critical for market success.  Based on our objectives, QRM principles were a natural fit to meet our goals.”

Working directly with the QRM Center’s students and staff, Promega designed both office and product finishing cells to address the need to assess and evaluate inquiries, process orders and answer questions rapidly with a high level of customer service.

As Pearson explained, “A unique aspect of QRM is the focus not only on the manufacturing shop floor but also in the office area.  Most manufacturing principles focus solely on shop floor efficiencies.  Our initial evaluation helped us realize some key inefficiencies in our office processes.  We worked with a graduate student from the QRM Center to help us analyze our functional roles, using various modeling programs, to create a solution tailored to our business.  As a result, we moved cross-functional roles into a single co-located office space.  By co-locating staff, the team is able to quickly talk with each other in an open office area to get questions answered instantaneously instead of waiting for someone to respond to email.”

“In addition,” Pearson said, “Promega created dedicated office and lab spaces to build additional capacity for our custom business.  Our team was involved with office and lab space layouts.  We also worked with the QRM Center to help us design our new spaces in order to maximize the area for lead time reduction.”

As a result of these efforts, Dwight Egan, CEO at Co-Diagnostics said, “Promega proved to be an invaluable partner, enabling us to rapidly deliver high-quality diagnostic solutions using our CoPrimer™ technology.  Our business model demands that we work with a manufacturer that can re-prioritize quickly, enabling a truly rapid response to emerging infectious diseases, and Promega provides us with that high level of service. Their dedication to customer support was instrumental in bringing a detection solution to the market.”

According to Promega’s Pearson, as a result of the projects conducted with the QRM Center, the company has been able to reduce its lead time for basic custom orders from 15 working days to 10 working days.  In addition, the extra capacity built into lab and office space design with the Center’s help allows the company to meet requests in as little as five business days for emergencies like pandemic responses.

To learn more about Quick Response Office Cells like the one implemented at Promega, consider attending the “How to Design Office Cells to Reduce Lead Times for Custom Products” workshop on March 19.

QRM Center Blog

QRM from an Employee’s Perspective, or “WIIFM?”

Professor Charlene Yauch
Professor Charlene Yauch

Prior to implementing Quick Response Manufacturing (QRM) cells, management should spend some time preparing answers to the WIIFM question. So, what exactly is this “WIIFM?”

WIIFM stands for “What’s in it for me?” – in other words, it is important to consider the employees’ perspectives and think through what’s in it for them as you are designing production and office cells.

Let’s first consider production cells. To create a production cell, you identify a focused target market segment (FTMS) for which lead time reduction will make a significant impact on customers and/or internal results. Then, you determine what processes or tasks are needed to produce the products in the FTMS. You relocate equipment and workstations to put them in close proximity and create a work area for the products to move short distances and where the cell team can flexibly move between tasks as needed and easily communicate with one another. By creating the production cell, the responsibilities of the cell operator have considerably changed. Instead of working on one task or process type for long periods of time, the cell worker now must be cross-trained and adaptable to move to where he/she is most needed. The cell team also typically picks up previously indirect tasks such as inspection, material handling, ordering materials, etc.

We advise companies to seek volunteers when creating their first cells to ensure that the cell workers are motivated to work in new ways. So, what’s in it for them? Here is a brief list of what may motivate workers to volunteer to work in a cell:

  • Esteem, Purpose, and Appreciation: being chosen to work in the cell may boost someone’s ego, give them a greater sense of purpose due to helping the organization improve, and provide explicit recognition/appreciation from managers
  • Socialization: working closely with a team can provide more social interaction than traditional jobsPhysical reasons: doing a greater variety of tasks can reduce the repetitiveness of traditional work and may alleviate some aches/pains/injuries; there may be a greater share of cognitive work in the cell
  • Growth: working in a cell generally means that workers need to learn a broader range of skills; for many people, this type of growth and development makes work more interesting
  • Ownership resulting in more control: people appreciate having some control over planning and decision making, and cell teams are generally given much more autonomy than traditional workers

Consider adding extrinsic motivators. The items listed above are intrinsic motivators. The volunteers may recognize these things and be eager to try something new. However, many workers are not going to pick up on these aspects and/or may feel that the company is taking advantage of them if some extrinsic motivators are not also provided. So, what else is in it for them? At many companies, cell workers are paid more than traditional ones. This could be through a skill-based pay system that rewards people more for the greater breadth of knowledge achieved, or it could just be due to the higher expectations related to teamwork and accountability. If higher pay accompanies the intrinsic motivators above, the cell work can be highly rewarding. If the company attempts to pay people using traditional job categories and pay rates, the workers are not likely to be satisfied with the new arrangement.

What about quick response office cells (Q-ROCs)? Are they different? Yes and no. Employees in office cells are still working as a multi-functional team focused on a particular market segment. They are still expected to cross-train and be able to help out on a variety of tasks as needed. They may experience any or all of the intrinsic motivators listed above related to cell work. But, these employees often start out with greater educational credentials and higher salaries. Do they need extrinsic motivation as well? Possibly. There is still a change in the expectations for these employees. They are still “guinea pigs” in the new way of organizing and conducting work. Because of this, I feel that extrinsic motivation is helpful in the office as well.

Extrinsic motivation for salaried employees can be accomplished in a variety of ways. It could mean higher wages or salaries, but it might also be provided through bonuses, gainsharing, profit sharing, periodic raises, or other tangible means. It needs to be clear to employees how their efforts are being recognized and rewarded. Without this element, the intrinsic motivators may not be sufficient to satisfy these employees.

What about impact on the “bottom line?” Managers often worry about the increased cost of these extrinsic motivators, but companies that have implemented QRM have discovered that even though salaries and wages have increased, overall personnel costs have declined due to increased productivity. So, avoid traditional cost-based thinking related to employee compensation and put considerable effort into thinking through the lens of WIIFM, namely WIIFT – “What’s in it for them!”