ZEPHTREX FABRIC Introduction Zephtrex fabric is a specialized product made by Ellison Textiles and used exclusively by CMX Corporation. The current demand level is just one-third of Ellison’s manufacturing capacity, but the business is expected to grow substantially over the next year. Order-Entry Process CMX sends an order to Ellison Textiles 15 business days before CMX needs the Zephtrex fabric. However, CMX would like to shrink this to 10 days. As one CMX manager noted, “Fifteen days doesn’t give us the flexibility we need to respond to changes in the marketplace. Sure, we could hold extra inventory here, but I’m not sure this is necessary, especially given the capacity situation at Ellison.” CMX sends the order to the Ellison sales rep, Ed Stevens, via e-mail. Ed supports multiple plants and generally checks his e-mail twice a day. However, if he is on the road and does not have access to the Internet, it may take 24 hours to receive and acknowledge the order. (CMX has been very good in the past about following up on orders that weren’t confirmed within a day.) Ed passes these orders to the production planner, Rosemary Wilkins, at the next production planning and status meeting, which occurs every Tuesday and Friday morning at 7:00 A.M. via a conference call. Production Planning Process During the semiweekly planning and status meetings, Ed and Rosemary schedule new orders for production. On average, it takes four days to actually produce an order. Orders are scheduled in weekly “time buckets.” That is, Rosemary schedules all orders to start on Monday and finish on Friday. Therefore, an order due at the customer on Thursday would need to be scheduled and completed by the prior Friday. Similarly, a customer order that came in on Tuesday would not be started until the following Monday. “Of course, we’ll start and end a job on different days if we absolutely have to, but it’s easier to interpret the schedule if we stick to the Monday–Friday schedule,” says Rosemary. QUESTIONS 1. Map out the order entry and production planning processes. How long do these processes take? How much of this time is “value-added”? What is the percent value added time? What accounts for the remainder of the time? 2. Will Ellison be able to meet CMX’s lead time requirements under the current processes? 3. Suppose Ellison Textiles would like to use the Six Sigma methodology to structure the improvement effort. How would you describe the “D” step of DMAIC for this particular effort? What kinds of improvements do you think would satisfy the “I” stage? Be creative. Why might it make sense to follow the DMAIC methodology here, even though we might think we “know” what the problem and the solutions are?