Supply Chain Tetris

By Bernard Milian
supply chain tetris

You’ve probably already played Tetris, right?

The colored bricks, of various shapes, fall from the top of the screen. It’s up to you to orient them as they fall, so they fit into each other.

The completed rows disappear while earning points and the player can fill in the empty spaces again.

If you are not fast enough or not skilled enough, the screen fills up… and your game is over.

The role of a production planner is similar to that…

Customer orders fall from the top of the screen (from the ERP screen, it’s less fun).

They come in various shapes. More complicated, they fall at varying speeds, and they are sometimes accompanied by stressful sound effects (let’s call it the customer’s voice… or the salesman’s).

These orders do not fit together easily — their shape involves more or less complex routings and bills of material. It is up to the production planner to align them as well as possible with the availability of capacities and materials.

Attention: you have little time. The “Tetromino” of the order descends on the screen, you must direct it before it touches the already planned orders (the work in progress). The time available is limited, just as the time the customer is willing to wait is limited.

So, your plan will probably be imperfect — but it’s better to have an imperfect plan that moves quickly than a perfect plan that takes too long to prepare. Aleksei Pajitnov, the inventor of Tetris, did not plan to freeze the screen to allow you to reposition everything as you wish. He did not plan a “frozen horizon” because it is not compatible with the dynamics of the game — just as it is not compatible with the dynamics of many markets…

If you do it right, you deliver to your customers — completed lines disappear.

This is the key to receiving new orders: If your pipeline doesn’t empty at the rate at which new orders are coming in, you’ll reach the top of the screen, and the game will be over. The game of Tetris is nothing else than managing a flow and controlling WIP is the key to success!

Ensuring the availability of materials and resources on time, interweaving the real demand so that it flows as quickly as possible in your industrial system, and controlling the work in progress. If you want to know more about Intuiflow, do not hesitate to contact us!

Alternatively, you can learn more about Tetris instead.

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