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

Practical Strategies to Support Cross-training, Teamwork, and Empowerment in Quick Response Cells

Date: January 20, 2022
Times: 1:00 – 4:00 p.m.
Format: Virtual training session
Registation Fees: Non-members, $295 per person, QRM Center members, $175 per person
Registration deadline: January 19, 2022

How to effectively manage employees that are members of Quick Response cell teams. Topics include the pros and cons of having a team leader, how to prioritize cross-training needs, how to incentivize employees toexpand their range of skills and responsibilities, planning a job rotation strategy, and how to ramp up empowerment and accountability without overwhelming people.

Presenter: Charlene Yauch, Director, QRM Center

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 15-16, 2022
Times: 8:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.
Format: In-person workshop at the DoubleTree Hotel-Downtown Madison
Registation Fees: Non-members, $1195 per person, QRM Center members, $695 per person
Registration deadline: March 8, 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

Dr. Charlene Yauch, QRM Center Director

How to Develop a Strong Sense of Ownership in QRM Cells

I recently read a paper about how increased psychological ownership of a public good (like a lake or a park) increases the likelihood of engaging in stewardship behavior for that good.1

Psychological ownership is a feeling that you have a personal interest in the care of and performance of the ownership target (which can be an object, organization, physical space, etc.), and that the target’s performance reflects upon your identity.  It is a mental attachment to the target.  A key finding of the research paper was that developing a feeling of ownership increases perceived responsibility, which leads to active behavior to care for the public good.  The research also found that if a large number of people are considered to be mutually responsible, referred to as diffusion of responsibility, then stewardship behavior decreases.

This got me thinking about the psychological aspects of working in Quick Response Manufacturing (QRM) cells.  One of the key changes that occurs for employees is that they are given ownership of the cell’s operations and are expected to work as a team to make decisions.  Part of the improved performance in cells can be attributed to the psychological changes that occur in people.  In the QRM Center’s workshops, we often tell the story of Ziggy.  He was a shop-floor employee at a manufacturing firm, and he had frequent problems with absenteeism and tardiness and a poor attitude.  When the company asked for volunteers for their first QRM cell, the managers hoped for anyone but Ziggy.  And, then Ziggy volunteered.  Not only to work in the cell but also to serve as the cell leader.  And, what they discovered was a miraculous transformation.  Ziggy embraced the new way of working.  He felt ownership for the cell and therefore acted responsibly.  He showed up for work early and stayed late.  He became a highly productive employee and was a good cell leader.

So, is that all it takes?  Is it sufficient to reorganize employees into cells?  Not quite, but it’s a big part of it.  The cell automatically decreases the diffusion of responsibility.  In addition to creating QRM cells, here are some suggestions for ensuring that employees take on a feeling of ownership.

  • Ensure that the cell teams are not too big.  I recommend a maximum of 12 people, and most cells should have 3 to 9 people.  As team size increases, communication becomes more difficult and responsibility becomes more diffused.  Larger teams are also more likely to break into cliques.
  • Before the cell is implemented, get input from the cell team on technical decisions such as equipment selection, cell layout, and batch sizes.  The cell team should not dictate the decisions made at this stage, but their input and involvement will greatly accelerate their sense of ownership.
  • When the cell is first starting, allow the team to name the cell (or give it a nickname), have them choose a cell color, and choose a team leader if one is going to be used.  This gives the cell team some initial practice in making group decisions and it helps to enhance their feelings of connectedness to the cell.
  • Also ask the team to make decisions about their work rules and norms.  To the extent possible, allow them to set their own hours and decide how much shift overlap there will be, provided they end up with sufficient weekly capacity.  Have the team document the norms to ensure everyone understands the expectations.
  • Determine the boundaries of the cell team’s authority.  Ownership does not mean that the cell members can do whatever they want.  Management should work closely with the cell team to define the limits of decisions that can be made by the team.
  • If autonomous teamwork is a new concept in your organization, hire a coach to assist with the cell startup activities.  The coach can moderate conflicts that may arise and assist both cell team members and managers at learning the norms for day-to-day operation.
  • As the cell begins operation, encourage the team to make improvements.  Allow them to devise better ways of moving products through the cell and avoiding any quality problems that occur (if any).  Implement those ideas that are within the scope of the previously defined boundaries.  Analyze ideas that require a greater investment or more involvement from other groups within the organization.  If ideas are ultimately rejected, be sure to provide feedback to the cell team about how the idea was evaluated and why it was rejected.
  • Finally, be extremely cautious about how managers or supervisors react when mistakes are made.  The team is likely to make an occasional mistake.  If the team is punished in any way, which could just be a reprimand from a supervisor, they are less likely to want to make decisions in the future.  Their sense of ownership will decline, along with their willingness to try new things and make performance improvements.  A better way to handle mistakes is to discuss them as a team and jointly develop potential solutions that can then be tested.  The trick in the discussion is to focus on the process/system and what can be improved to prevent similar mistakes in the future.  Avoid trying to place blame on one or more individuals.

Although it can be challenging to provide cell team members with a strong sense of ownership, it is well worth the effort.  The cell’s performance can improve dramatically in multiple ways, including increased throughput, fewer defects, and faster response times.

1.  Peck, J., Kirk, C.P., & Luangrath, A.W. (2020). Caring for the commons: Using psychological ownership to enhance stewardship behavior for public goods. Journal of Marketing, 1-17.

Posted January 12, 2021