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.


Kris Pearson

I wanted to extend deep gratitude for our relationship with the QRM Center.  This year has been challenging for many companies, Promega included.

Our custom business has increased from 25% of our corporate revenue to 45% of our corporate revenue this year.  Our Net Sales Calendar Year to Date are up 213%.  Our order lines are up over 300%.  We have been able to handle this increased business with only two additional headcount and no impact to our lead times, except in cases where the supply chain was disrupted globally.

These accomplishments were possible, in large part, due to our QRM implementation and our relationship with the QRM Center at  UW-Madison.

Thank you so much for your teachings and guidance over the last few years.  We were definitely set up for success when the pandemic hit.

Kris Pearson, Director of Manufacturing & Custom Operations,
Promega Corporation

Upcoming Events

How to Design Shop Floor Cells to Reduce Lead Times for Custom Products

Date: February 23, 2022
Times: 12:30 – 4:30 p.m.
Format: Virtual training session
Registation Fees: Non-members, $345 per person, QRM Center members, $195 per person
Registration deadline: February 22, 2022

How to design effective shop floor cells in a high-mix, low-volume or custom product environment. Topics include where to start with a Focused Target Market Segment, capacity planning, and addressing common challenges like monument processes.

Presenter: Charlene Yauch, Director, QRM Center

How to Implement Quick Response Manufacturing

Date: March 15-17, 2022
Times: 9:00 a.m. – 12:00 noon (Central Time) on three successive days
Format: Virtual training via Microsoft Teams
Registation Fees: Non-members, $795 per person, QRM Center members, $495 per person
Registration deadline: March 13, 2022

A comprehensive overview of the QRM strategy and its four core concepts. Introduces all aspects of QRM and provides a roadmap for implementation.

Presenter: Charlene Yauch, Director, QRM Center

QRM Certificate Now Available

The University of Wisconsin-Madison recently introduced a Quick Response Manufacturing (QRM) certificate designed to provide industry professionals with a formal credential from a world-class university to document their expertise in QRM principles, techniques, and tools.

This credential demonstrates your mastery of QRM knowledge so that you can lead your organization through QRM implementations, improve your company’s operational and financial performance and educate others about QRM principles. Your proficiency will be sought after, whether pursuing new career opportunities or sharing your knowledge through speeches at local events and international conferences. To learn more, jump to the QRM Certificate page.

QRM News

QRM Center Under New Management in the College of Engineering

The Center for Quick Response Manufacturing recently became part of the Office of Interdisciplinary Programs (InterPro) within the College of Engineering at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.  Interpro, formerly known as the Office of Engineering Professional Development (EPD), offers a portfolio of professional education programs and services, focused on the needs of engineers, managers, and technical professionals.  InterPro’s offerings include a wide array of professional development courses, along with certificates and online master’s degrees.  InterPro is led by Ed Borbely, Associate Dean, who is anticipating great opportunities for cross-collaboration between the QRM Center, the UW e-business consortium (UWEBC), and the College’s traditional professional development offerings.

Dr. Charlene Yauch, QRM Center Director

In conjunction with this transition to InterPro, Dr. Charlene Yauch was promoted to Center Director.  Dr. Yauch has worked as Associate Director for the Center since 2019. She is an experienced engineering educator and practitioner with extensive experience in Quick Response Manufacturing and improving manufacturing operations. “I am excited to lead the QRM Center at this critical time. The Center provides encouragement, support, and technical expertise to U.S. manufacturers, and the Center’s new home within InterPro will no doubt expand our reach even further” said Yauch.

Professor Yauch received her Ph.D. at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. As part of her research, she worked with the QRM Center to investigate organizational issues related to implementing manufacturing cells. Professor Yauch has been an engineering educator for over 20 years at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, Milwaukee School of Engineering (MSOE) and Oklahoma State University. Her honors include five teaching awards and a National Science Foundation Career grant.

Dr. Yauch has taught classes on numerous industrial engineering topics, including design & analysis of manufacturing systems, manufacturing processes, computer numerical control machining, automation technologies, and engineering economy.  Her professional interests relate to the implementation of manufacturing system improvements such as Quick Response, Lean, and Agile Manufacturing, with emphasis on the human, social, and organizational aspects.

Prior to her doctoral degree, she worked in industry for six years, performing a variety of tasks for manufacturing firms.  Dr. Yauch has a multi-disciplinary educational background. In addition to her Ph.D., she has a bachelor’s degree in industrial engineering from Purdue University, and graduate degrees in sociology (M.S.) and manufacturing systems engineering (M.S.) from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

QRM Center Blog

Pascal Pollet, Principal Engineer Smart and Digital Factory, Sirris, Belgium

Practical Tips to Create Spare Capacity and Slash Your Lead Times

Intuitively, we all know that lead times increase if you receive more orders. To understand the magnitude of this effect, we need to look at the utilization level. The utilization level is the ratio between the demand and the effective capacity. Or stated otherwise, if your utilization level is for example 90%, then your resources will be busy during 90% of the time, and be available for additional orders during just 10% of the time. As a rule of thumb, the lead time is inversely proportional with the available spare capacity. So, if you can double your spare capacity, your lead time will typically halve. This effect can be quite dramatic. For example, suppose you have a utilization level of 95% and a lead time of four weeks. Now, if you could lower your utilization level to 90% by creating some additional spare capacity, then your lead time would halve to two weeks. If you could lower your utilization level further to 80%, then your lead time would drop to just one week. So, by simply adding 15% spare capacity, you could reduce your lead times with a factor of four!

There are many techniques to create additional spare capacity at only a minimal cost. In this blog article, we will provide you with several tips on how this can be accomplished. These tips often boil down to making your resources more productive. It should be stressed that making your resources more productive is not the same as reducing costs. To reduce cost, you would need to make your resources more productive, and then fire the surplus resources. However, this would lead again to a high utilization level, and a long lead time.

Tip 1: Invest in training

Investing in training your work force is crucial to increase the productivity. We often underestimate how poorly trained some people are. For example, we’ve recently had an encounter with a planner who didn’t know that Excel has a search function. As a result, he had to manually search his planning list row by row to answer questions about specific orders. Similarly, it is unfortunate that many office workers are unable to make a pivot table or create a macro in Excel.

One study found that employees of companies who provide sufficient training (ca. 40 hours/year) are approximately 20 percent more productive. Training is therefore one of the biggest levers for increasing productivity. So, start by mapping out the training needs in your company and train your employees. And yes, all Excel users who can’t create macros will probably benefit from some training.

Tip 2: Use two screens

Employees who process a lot of data can increase their productivity by 5-10 per cent by using two screens. By splitting different applications across the two screens, it becomes easier to use data from one source (e.g. emails, Excel) into a second system (e.g. ERP). Using two screens can also reduce data entry errors by a third.

Tip 3: Eliminate pallet trucks

Hand pallet trucks are a popular means of transport on the shop floor. However, a lot of time is often spent searching for the pallet trucks or for returning the pallet truck. There are two solutions for this: give your pallet trucks fixed parking spaces, or even better, eliminate the use of pallet trucks all together. You can often do this by using alternative means of transport, such as roller conveyors or by simply mounting wheels under the material bins or by using pallet undercarriers.

Tip 4: Don’t release production orders with missing components

A lot of time is often wasted when orders are released prematurely before all the necessary components are available. Employees search endlessly for the missing components and supervisors lose time trying to find out where the components have gone. This can easily be solved by only releasing orders once all the components are effectively available. In one case, we have seen a productivity increase of up to 15 per cent as a result.

Tip 5: Do not trust round numbers

Production speeds are often set at round numbers such as 1,000 strokes per minute, 20 metres per minute… But what are the chances that the optimal speed is exactly 20 metres per minute, and not 21 or 22 metres per minute? Round numbers point at non-optimised production rates. If you see such a round number, ask if the speed can also be set to 21, and a day later to 22, etc. until you notice that the highest achievable speed has been reached. Before you know it, you may have increased the output of a bottleneck machine by 10 percent or more.

Tip 6: Invest in cross-training

We already discussed the impact of training on productivity in tip 1. A special form of high-impact training is cross-training. There are several important advantages to cross-training.

Many high-mix-low-volume (HMLV) production environments are characterised by varying bottlenecks. Cross-trained employees can easily be moved to another workstation, allowing the bottlenecks, and therefore the entire company, to process more orders.

Cross-trained employees have more insight in the work of their colleagues and can often contribute to improvements at other work centers. For example, by providing information in the right format or by packaging materials in the right way, the work of a colleague can often be made easier.

Tip7: Provide correct and complete information right from the start

A lot of time is often wasted on collecting the necessary information in the order processing phase. Missing or wrong information often leads to back and forth communication between engineering, sales and the customer, or even worse, to errors and, therefore, rework. You can avoid this waste by clearly placing the responsibility for providing correct and complete information to the source of the information (typically sales). The further down the chain the problems are discovered, the more time is wasted.

Creating standardized order forms, check lists and providing product training to the sales staff are often very helpful. For complex sales processes, it is advisable to involve engineering already at an early stage. This sometimes requires some extra effort on the part of the engineering department, but it avoids a lot of problems afterwards and is often an excellent learning moment for the sales people involved.

Tip 8: Reduce the work-in-progress on the shop floor

Having a lot of work-in-progress (WIP) on the shop floor feels good to many production operators, as it gives the impression that there is enough work available. However, having a lot of WIP is wasteful: WIP takes up a lot of space and results in greater walking distances, too much WIP also results in more searching, and the longer the goods remain on the shop floor, the more likely they get damaged or become obsolete.

By reducing your work-in-progress, you can eliminate these wastes and often significantly increase your productivity. We’ve seen examples of companies who reduced their WIP by 80% and got a productivity improvement of 20% in return.

There are many simple ways to reduce your WIP. If you use an MRP planning system, you can simply reduce the planning lead time parameters in the system to ensure that orders start later, thereby reducing the shop floor lead time and the work-in-progress. Another way is by physically limiting the WIP on the shop floor by restricting the number of carts or pallets that are circulating or by introducing a production control system called POLCA.

Interested in more tips for how to boost productivity without making a big investment? See this site for many more ideas: