Introduction to POLCA – The People-friendly Production Control System

Event Details

Date: April 14, 2021
Time: 12:30 to 4:30 p.m. (Central Time)
Location: Virtual training workshop

POLCA: The People-friendly Production Control System for High-mix, Low-volume and Custom Products

Learn from the inventor of POLCA! Rajan Suri, founding director of the Center for Quick Response Manufacturing, will conduct this workshop.

POLCA (Paired-cell Overlapping Loops of Cards with Authorization) is a card-based visual control system that manages the flow of jobs through the shop floor: at each operation, it controls which job should be worked on next to meet delivery targets. POLCA ensures that upstream operations use their capacity effectively by working on jobs that are needed downstream, while at the same time preventing excessive work-in-process (WIP) build-ups when bottlenecks appear unexpectedly. POLCA is particularly suited to companies manufacturing high-mix, low-volume and custom products, for which Kanban systems do not work well. These companies often struggle with long lead times, late deliveries, and daily expediting. POLCA has delivered impressive results in such companies, including 50-75% reduction in inventory and lead times, and on-time delivery improved to over 98%.

POLCA Builds on the Capabilities of Humans in the System

Many software-based scheduling systems lose sight of the fact that such systems are deployed by people who need to buy in to the system and support it. This has resulted in ineffective or failed implementations. In contrast, experience with many companies has shown that people on the front line like using POLCA, and they help to ensure that it works well.

POLCA Builds on Cells, Teams and Ownership

Many companies are implementing cells and creating shop floor teams that have ownership of their areas. POLCA not only builds on this structure but also takes advantage of it to get improved performance from these teams. In addition, it supports better coordination and cooperation between different shop floor teams.

POLCA Eliminates the Daily Stress of Hot Jobs

Employees learn that the simple, visual signals from POLCA enable them to react quickly to shop floor realities such as bottlenecks, part shortages, and customer expedites without getting lost in the complexity. As problems are eliminated, management and supervisors’ time is liberated to focus on strategic improvements instead of daily fire-fighting.

The Crowning Aspect of POLCA is That it is Simple

Utilizing POLCA does not require any complex software implementation: it can be used without an ERP system or it can seamlessly complement an existing ERP system.

Workshop Content

  • The Need for a New Control Strategy: See why ERP/MRP systems and Kanban do not work well in low-volume or custom environments.
  • Understanding POLCA: Learn the simple rules that drive this visual card-based system, and the operational benefits that result.
  • Computer Simulation: Experience how POLCA works in an example company through this visualization.
  • Overview of new book on POLCA: Get a “walk-through” of Suri’s new book with tips on how to use it to support your POLCA system design and implementation.
  • Industry Case Studies: See practical examples showing the effectiveness of POLCA for companies in many industries in USA, Canada, and Europe.

The Need for a New Material Control Strategy

Learn why MRP systems can result in an increasing spiral of long lead times and late deliveries, and why concepts such as Takt time and Kanban do not work well in low-volume or custom environments.

Detailed Explanation of POLCA

POLCA stands for Paired-cell Overlapping Loops of Cards with Authorization. This hybrid push/pull system combines the best features of card-based pull (Kanban) systems and push (MRP) systems while overcoming their drawbacks for low-volume and custom production. See how POLCA uses simple visual signals to manage capacity, while at the same time preventing excessive work-in-process (WIP) build-ups when bottlenecks appear unexpectedly.

Computer Animation of POLCA

A computer animation will demonstrate how POLCA works for a company making low-volume and custom-engineered products.

Operational Benefits from Implementing POLCA

You will learn about numerous benefits that companies experience after implementing POLCA, and understand why these benefits are the result of the POLCA system.

Industry Case Studies of POLCA Application

Case studies will show the effectiveness of POLCA for companies in many industries in USA, Canada, and Europe, including:

  • Using POLCA in an Aluminum Extrusion Operation
  • Applying POLCA in a Pharmaceutical Environment
  • Improving Delivery Performance at a Custom Hinge Manufacturer
  • Implementing POLCA at a Metalworking Subcontractor
  • How POLCA reduced lead times and improved quality in a Glass Factory

Steps to Design and Implement POLCA

Get an overview of the steps needed to design, implement, and launch POLCA successfully in your company.

Overview of New Book on POLCA

You will get a “walk-through” of Suri’s new book to provide you with an overview of the contents, as well as tips on how to best use the book as a resource to support your POLCA system analysis, design, implementation, and launch.

Rajan Suri, Founding Director

Professor Rajan Suri
Rajan Suri, QRM Center Founding Director

Rajan Suri served as Professor of Industrial Engineering at the University of Wisconsin-Madison from 1985-2008. He earned his bachelor’s degree from Cambridge University (England) and his M.S. and Ph.D. from Harvard University. Suri founded the Center for Quick Response Manufacturing in 1993, envisioning a consortium of companies that would work in partnership with the university and with each other to understand and implement lead time reduction strategies.

He is author of the two QRM books, Quick Response Manufacturing: A Companywide Approach to Reducing Lead Times (1998) and It’s About Time: The Competitive Advantage of Quick Response Manufacturing (2010), as well as the first book on POLCA: The Practitioner’s Guide to POLCA (2018).

Suri has consulted for leading firms including Alcoa, AT&T, Boeing, Danfoss, Ford, Harley-Davidson, Hewlett Packard, IBM, John Deere, National Oilwell Varco, Pratt & Whitney, Rockwell Automation and TREK Bicycle. Consulting assignments in Europe and the Far East, along with projects for the World Bank, have given him an international perspective on manufacturing competitiveness.

Suri has received awards from the American Automatic Control Council, The Institute of Management Sciences, and the IEEE. In 1999, Suri was made a Fellow of Society of Manufacturing Engineers (SME), and in 2006 he received SME’s Sargent Award for the creation and implementation of Quick Response Manufacturing strategy. In 2010, Suri was inducted into the Industry Week 2010 Manufacturing Hall of Fame for the development of QRM and his efforts in helping U.S. manufacturers stay competitive.

Event Schedule

Course from 12:30 to 4:30 p.m. (Central Time)

Course Fees

$395 per person

Discounted fee for QRM Center members: $245 per person

Fee covers online training session, a copy of The Practitioner’s Guide to POLCA and workbook PDF file.


Registration deadline: April 12, 2021

Register for this event