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

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

Rajan Suri, Founding Director

Professor Rajan Suri
Professor Rajan Suri, Founding Director, QRM Center

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.

Networking reception from 4:30 p.m. to 7:00 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 Fluno Center at a reduced rate.

Lodging at the Fluno Center
601 University Avenue, Madison, Wisconsin

Call 1-877-773-5866 or book a guest room online at the Fluno Center’s dedicated web page for this event.  The cutoff date for the room block is Sunday, March 8, 2020.

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, lunch and reception after the session.


Registration deadline: April 1, 2020

Cancellations after deadline of April 1 will be assessed 25% of enrollment fee.

Register for this event