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  5. Fast companies: 20 years of quick-response manufacturing

Fast companies: 20 years of quick-response manufacturing

A UW-Madison research center that gives real teeth to the old saw that “time is money” will mark its 20th anniversary with an international conference June 3-5 at the Monona Terrace Community and Convention Center in Madison.

Since its founding by Industrial and Systems Engineering Professor Rajan Suri in 1993, the Center for Quick Response Manufacturing has helped more than 200 companies improve their bottom lines by shaving inefficiencies and reducing lead times from assembly to delivery. The conference will feature four tutorials for new companies and 20 case studies by senior managers of companies, from small manufacturers to household names such as Harley Davidson and John Deere.

QRM has made an especially strong impact on Wisconsin industry. The dozens of state companies benefiting from QRM partnerships include Electronic Theatre Controls in Middleton, Oshkosh Corp., Nelson Container in Germantown, Pointe Precision in Plover, OmniPress in Madison and Hufcor Corp. in Janesville, among others.

Two recent examples are testament to QRM’s impact:

Phoenix Products of Milwaukee, a manufacturer of special purpose lighting equipment, was experiencing problems in the past decade with slow delivery times, inventory control and rising overtime costs. After partnering with QRM, Phoenix embarked on a five-year process that enabled it to cut production time on its core lighting products from 14 days down to three days, while cutting overtime costs by 75 percent.

Nicolet Plastics of Mountain, Wisconsin, a maker of complex medical and industrial components, literally revolutionized its approach to business using QRM principles. The company developed fast, flexible and customized approaches to better serve the rapidly changing needs of customers. In April 2013, Nicolet Plastics was selected as the Small Manufacturer of the Year by the National Manufacturing Leadership Council—topping all other nominees with revenues under $1 billion. The award specifically referenced Nicolet’s use of QRM to respond to rising global competition and improve every part of the company.

To learn more about QRM or the upcoming conference, please contact Industrial and Systems Engineering Professor and QRM Director Ananth Krishnamurthy at (608) 890-2236 or

Brian Mattmiller