This article is part 2 of a 2 part series on creating a Plan-For-Every-Part (PFEP) for a manufacturing facility.

Part 1 introduces the concept and benefits of the PFEP.

Part 2 provides a step-by-step walk through of the PFEP.

The Foundation of Lean Inventory Management
While the PFEP concept is straightforward and the steps are simple, planning and implementing a PFEP for large complex inventories can feel overwhelming. Fortunately, while developing a PFEP can seem like a lot of work with little return, the payoff is exponential when you consider that the PFEP forms the foundation of streamlined inventory management and lean material flow otherwise unachievable. Once you’ve committed to developing a PFEP for your plant follow the steps below.

Step 1. Identify and Define PFEP Data
Your manufacturing plant’s unique needs will help you decide which inventory data to maintain. At a minimum all inventory data already used in your processes should be included. However, it highly recommend that you also envision what kind of data might be useful in the future to aid continuous improvement initiatives.
Figure 1 on page 5 illustrates a list of common part data as featured in Lean Enterprise Institute’s Making Materials Flow. This list can give you a solid idea of where to start.

Of course, your part data is bound to change over time as you continually improve. Try to design your data elements in a way that makes it easy for your PFEP to grow and adapt with your company. Best practice is to ensure atomicity (atomic data). Atomicity simply refers to the characteristic of data that cannot be further divided. For example, rather than storing all shipping dimensions of a part’s shipping container within a single cell, it is best to store “height,” “width,” and “length” in three distinct cells.

While this can seem overly tedious or needless it is vital to ensuring flexibility and usefulness. Doing this allows you the ability to design and implement very lean storage, procurement, and material flow solutions that would otherwise be elusive.

Step 2. Select the PFEP Information Management System
Not only will you need to store a lot of information, but you’ll also need to rearrange it and retrieve it. That is the function of an information management system. The information management system you utilize for your PFEP should meet the following criteria:

  • The system should be able to sort parts by individual data elements. Quick access to information is key, so make sure you can arrange and organize information.
  • The system should allow you to adjust columns and rows. Your PFEP will change over time. The system must be flexible so that it can develop with your operations.
  • The system must be simple to use. The PFEP is meant to be accessed, manipulated and understood. Don’t complicate it. Most organizations have Excel – which meets set criteria – or an equivalent spreadsheet application already. Start with that. If your operations broaden or your information management capabilities expand in the future then you can consider adopting a relational database like Access, SQL Server or MySQL. The good news is that the transition will be painless if you have properly implemented the other advice.
  • The system must be accessible to all. The information management system that you use needs to be available for workers to view and reference. However, DO NOT liberally grant administrative rights to make changes to the PFEP.

You should also create a data collection form for employees to complete any time part information needs to be changed or added to the PFEP. The form should include all of the data elements from your PFEP, the current information that is already in the system and a clear way to make changes that comply with the spreadsheet or database elements. Your form will vary depending on your facility’s specific needs.

Step 3. Begin (and Continue) to Collect and Enter Data Into the PFEP
If you have a large facility, you are strongly advised to only undertake one value stream at a time. Attempting to input data all at once might overwhelm you or your team to the point where you don’t finish the project. Take it work cell by work cell for each value stream before moving to the next value stream. While smaller facilities can attempt to create a PFEP for the entire plant at once, it is strongly advised that plants start in small, manageable chunks to build momentum, confidence, and broader buy-in.

No matter the size, it’s important that congruency exists between the parts on the floor and the parts in the plan. This is achieved by using the PFEP add/request form to collect all necessary information about the changes and having all changes approved and entered into the PFEP by a manager.

Ensure that your PFEP add/change procedures and form require approval from managers or leaders from all relevant departments. Commonly this includes engineering, operations, production control, and purchasing. A properly developed PFEP requires that all new parts are approved by all relevant departments and added to the PFEP before ever appearing on the plant floor. This requirement ensures that all new parts are introduced smoothly and without avoidable costly errors.

Step 4. Delegate Maintenance Responsibility
After the initial setup, a PFEP typically requires only small – but regular – updates. It is ideal that only one person, the PFEP manager, has the authority to make changes to the PFEP. In a smaller plant, this can easily be accomplished in fewer than 30 minutes a day. Larger plants may require more time or even multiple authorized PFEP managers. If multiple PFEP managers are required it is strongly recommended that they are assigned to manage value-stream or category specific PFEPs. PFEP managers should only be able to manage parts with their assigned value-stream or part category.

In all cases, it is important to ensure that all changes to part data is diligently monitored with a paper trail. Remember, the goal is to ensure that the inventory data in the PFEP can be trusted to reflect reality. Unrestricted editing and poorly documented changes will render the PFEP completely unreliable, sabotaging all lean inventory efforts.

The Lean Role of the PFEP
The PFEP is a worthy addition to a lean system, but as Rick Harris, Chris Harris, and Earl Wilson point out in Making Materials Flow, it is good to note that the PFEP does not directly produce customer value. Because of this, creating and maintaining the PFEP is not lean. Instead, the work that is invested in the Plan for Every Part should be considered important incidental work that necessarily and significantly increases the percent of value producing work that occurs in the plant.