I had a chance to speak with a company that designs and manufactures mascot suits at the Baseball Trade Show last week.
This company’s booth had a few mascot suits out for sale, including a very cute dog costume with a SOLD sign pinned to the torso.
(And why wouldn’t it sell? It’s a cute dog.)
The company representatives manning the booth said they offer reasonable prices, create custom designs with customers, have some of the best lead times in the industry (6-8 weeks for custom work), and even do mass production of mascot costumes for corporate customers (in the event you need 40 Tony the Tigers across the country). They aren’t a large company, but their in-house experts are pretty efficient and they do their manufacturing domestically.
That said, the representatives indicated there are areas for improvement. For example, they have a lot of raw material inventory. This was caused by having inaccurate counts in their electronic warehousing inventory tracking system. The system would say they had run out of a certain material and would trigger the purchasing department to order more, even if they still had a lot in stock.
An enterprise resource planning (ERP) system is a good tool to use for tracking inventory and keeping on hand only what you need. However, the downfall with such a system is that there is still a lot of human interaction with the materials themselves. The ERP system is only as useful as the accuracy of the data being put in by the users. If the shop floor operators and material handlers are using different processes that aren’t in line with the expectations of using the ERP system, then the data will be incorrect and excess inventory and/or stockouts of raw materials will occur.
Despite the issues they see in the ERP system data, the representatives believe the company would be well suited to do quarterly inventory audits instead of yearly audits so they all have a better idea of what they actually have. While this would be an effective quick solution, it still leaves open the root cause of the inventory issues in the first place – the discrepancy between the material usage/movement process and the data input for the ERP system. If the company can straighten that discrepancy out, they would find their annual inventory audit would not be nearly as far off.
And if nothing else, a visual factory setup with reorder points and safety stock points identified on their material racks might be helpful. If I were in charge of their operations, the first thing I’d attack is the process using the ERP system.