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A Breakup Letter to Traditional Material Requirements Planning (MRP)

Dear MRP,

I’ve done everything I can to make this relationship work. We’ve been together for decades and it always seems that I am making excuses for you.  But whether I use your output or revise it myself, I always get the blame for your failed plans.

Looking back, I don’t know what took me so long to realize that I have outgrown you. You never had an adaptable planning process – you only work if there is no variability. And for every problem that arises, every new wrinkle in the supply chain, you have only one tired old solution – Safety Stock. And that solution is likely to create additional problems.

Your insistence on precision, Material Requirements Planning, no matter the complexity or the expected timeframe is really the basic flaw that has finally pushed me beyond my limits. There are just too many disruptions for long-term precision to work.

Every day, things change with you.  It’s always a new plan.  Everything gets rearranged.  Plans that were fine yesterday now need revision. Items we had too much of, now we have too little.  And vice versa.  No plans ever stay the same and every change creates an emergency for me to deal with.

Too often, we seem to be so close to making it work. And every so often, everything lines up perfectly.  But even then, it’s not intentional.  It’s accidental.  And that’s just not sustainable or repeatable.  And as hard as we try, the solution remains out of reach.

It’s not that we share different goals. We are both trying to have enough inventory to fulfill customer demand without over-extending our working capital.  But the way you go about it; well, it just never achieves the goal.  I’ve finally accepted that by staying with you, we are traveling in the wrong direction.

I’m through guessing.  With you, I must guess when inventory will run out.  I must guess when I’ll need to order and when I’ll need to receive that order.  I must guess how much to order.  For all your precision, the visibility you bring comes too late. By the time you are able to tell me how much to order, it’s too late, and I must expedite all orders.

MRP, I don’t hate you.  We’ve travelled this long road together and I appreciate your strengths and what you brought to the table.  But for my own sanity, I need to move on.  I need to find a peaceful way to work that actually accomplishes our goals.  And I’m not abandoning you. You’ll still be nearby and a part of my life. But you will no longer be leading my attempts to successfully managing my supply chain and my inventory.  We’ll both take direction from my new partner.

After years of fighting with your stubbornness, I’ve found a way to balance my inventory between too little and too much.  It gives me great comfort to finally understand potential shortages early enough to correct the problem before it blows up in my face.

I’m leaving you for Demand Driven MRP. So please stop calling me with your “planned” orders and recommendations.  We’ll still be able to see each other from time to time, between the strategic inventory positions.

It’s not me, it’s you!

Your Supply Chain Manager

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