Introduction to POLCA

POLCA: a simple visual control system for high-mix, low-volume, or custom engineered products

Join Rajan Suri for this one-day workshop on the POLCA system

Introduction to POLCA Brochure
Click the image to download the Introduction to POLCA brochure.

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 struggle with long lead times, late deliveries, and daily expediting. POLCA has delivered impressive results in such companies in the US, Canada, and Europe, including 50-75% reduction in inventory and lead times, on-time delivery improved to over 98%, and increase in shipments by 10-20%.

The crowning aspect of POLCA is that it is simple. It does not require any complex software implementation: it can be used without an ERP system or it can seamlessly complement an existing ERP system.

What you will learn:

  • Why MRP and Kanban don’t work well in low-volume and custom environments
  • Understanding POLCA: How it works
  • Operational benefits of using POLCA
  • Case studies from companies in several types of industries
  • Next steps for designing and implementing POLCA in your company

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.

Brainstorming Session for Your Specific Situation

Brainstorm about a potential implementation of POLCA in your company, and get feedback on your ideas as well as recommended next steps.

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 internationally regarded as an expert on the analysis of manufacturing systems, and he wrote the book Quick Response Manufacturing: A Companywide Approach to Reducing Lead Times (Productivity Press). Suri has consulted for leading firms including Alcoa, Danfoss, 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 the Society of Manufacturing Engineers (SME), and in 2006 he received SMEs Albert M. Sargent Progress Award for the creation and implementation of the Quick Response Manufacturing philosophy.

Event Schedule

Continental breakfast and workshop check-in starting at 8:00 a.m.

Course from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.


Workshop attendees are responsible for making their own arrangements for overnight accommodations.  The workshop fee does not include hotel accommodations.  However, for your convenience, a room block has been reserved for workshop attendees at the Madison Concourse Hotel at a reduced rate.

The Madison Concourse Hotel
The Madison Concourse Hotel
Lodging at the Madison Concourse Hotel
1 West Dayton Street, Madison, Wisconsin

Details regarding overnight accommodations will be available soon.  Please check back.

Course Fees

$495 per person

Discounted fee for QRM Center members: $295 (QRM member companies may enroll up to five people at the member rate.)

Fee also includes a copy of Rajan Suri’s new book, The Practitioner’s Guide to POLCA, workbook; continental breakfast and lunch.


Registration deadline: August 14, 2020

Cancellations after deadline of August 14 will be assessed 25% of enrollment fee.