Why is repetitive manufacturing treated like a black sheep: Repetitive manufacturing! It has its own menu area in SAP! It’s a bit scary to some, a mystery to most. Some people touched it back in the late nineties when it wasn’t quite ready yet and some heard this and that about it over the past few years. Most people I have dealt with, do not know why it is there and what it can do. And then there are a lot of people who guess and interpret the functionality in their own way. So please allow me to take a stab at it as well.

Unfortunately you can’t find much documentation about it. So you will have to do quite a bit of trial and error. Since I am a true believer in RepMan and a convinced advocate (there are probably some folks out there scratching their head and wondering when I will ever give up promoting it – my SAP Mentor shirt reads “Use MF50” on the back) I spent considerable time and effort making it work for my clients. I am not 100% there yet, but my never ending quest continues. Here are some thoughts. You will find more detailed suggestions on how to make it work in some future blogs.

Misconception about repetitive manufacturing number 1: “since I am a discrete manufacturer I can’t use it!”

Repetitive manufacturing should not be classified as a third option after discrete and process manufacturing. Discrete manufacturing is roughly everything that after you put it together, you can take it apart again. An automobile, a telephone, a coffee maker. Process manufacturing is, as its name applies, a process to combine and mx ingredients into something you can NOT take apart anymore. Take orange juice, tomato soup or paint. Repetitive manufacturing has nothing to do with that classification but allows you to execute either one in a much more simplified way (no need to convert planned orders or post an individual goods issue for every component). RepMan ist just not good in a job shop environment where every part is different and needs its own order and spec. However, if you have standard parts and you make them again and again using the same instructions in a routing and BoM, you are a repetitive manufacturer. For some reason many people refuse to have their operations classified as a repetitive shop. In one instance the planners of a maker of water faucet filters vehemently defended their position that they don’t operate like a repetitive manufacturer. They put through 75,000,000 pieces per day in that one plant alone and have 12 different filters. This is not a blog to point out the advantages those planners would get from using SAPs repetitive manufacturing module. Otherwise I would write another 25 paragraphs on this.

Misconception about repetitive manufacturing number 2: “you have to make millions of the same thing every day!”

Not true! Wouldn’t you say that if you only make one product a day, but it’s the same product, you repeat the process? Repetitive manufacturing with SAP allows you to schedule by takt, amongst other things, and that helps you to smooth a production program that suffers from uneven and unpredictable demand. It also allows you to schedule your basic make to stock products and let the make to orders flow in as required. This is very easy in RepMan and very difficult with regular production or process orders. So if you have repeatable products, no matter how small the volume, take advantage of the more efficient transactions. RepMan was developed by SAP coming from the need to plan and execute more efficiently.

Misconception about repetitive manufacturing number 3: “we can’t control our cost with a cost collector!”

In RepMan you collect cost on a so-called product cost collector. So you don’t need to post cost for every order separately but for the product collectively. If your costing people tell you that that does not work for them, ask them to explain to you why. And don’t give up on having the opportunity to save a load of money in producing the right product at the right time in the right quantity at the right place just because someone says “I don’t know why, but we need to cost every order separately and we have done so for 50 years.

Misconception about repetitive manufacturing number 4:  ” backflush is not an option for us and a must for repetitive manufacturing”

First: you do not have to backflush. Second: why not doing it? In my mind there is absolutely no need to have inventory management by the minute. The smallest unit in inventory management, planning or MRP is days. So it should be sufficient if you post a GR for the lines at the end of the day and have the items backflushed accordingly. (there is also reporting point backflush for cycle times in excess of one day)

Misconception about repetitive manufacturing number 5:  “repetitive manufacturing only has planned orders. I need production orders”

When MRP generates supply elements for products setup for repetitive manufacturing, it creates orders of the type PE (not LA which are planned orders which get turned into production orders). A PE type order does not need to be converted. It’s executable right away and it can use a rate routing, a recipe or a standard routing. It may also be immediately scheduled and costed and capacity checked and fixed. It’s a beautiful thing and makes your life as a planner much more enjoyable.

Repetitive Manufacturing excites me (I know, I should get a life) with its simplicity in execution, effectiveness in usability and ability to automate a complex process. It has many features which allow you to practice ‘lean’ with its line balancing, sequencing board, takt-based scheduling and mixed model planning. It is worth looking into and has been proven to increase visibility into the process, reduce waste in the supply chain (lean) and improve flexibility to customer demand (agile).  “Use MF50!”

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