1st Edition

The Practitioner's Guide to POLCA
The Production Control System for High-Mix, Low-Volume and Custom Products

ISBN 9781138210646
Published March 16, 2018 by Productivity Press
436 Pages

USD $75.95

Prices & shipping based on shipping country


Book Description

POLCA (Paired-cell Overlapping Loops of Cards with Authorization) is a card-based visual control system that manages the flow of jobs through the shop floor: at each operation, it controls which job should be worked on next to meet delivery targets. POLCA ensures that upstream operations use their capacity effectively by working on jobs that are needed downstream, while at the same time preventing excessive work-in-process (WIP) build-ups when bottlenecks appear unexpectedly.

POLCA is particularly suited to companies manufacturing high-mix, low-volume and customized products. Such companies struggle with long lead times, late deliveries, and daily expediting to meet delivery dates. ERP systems are not designed to deal with this highly variable environment, and add-on software such as Finite Capacity Scheduling systems can require complex installation. Also, the Kanban system does not work well with low-volume or custom production. POLCA has delivered impressive results in such environments. It does not require any complex software implementation: it can be used without an ERP system or it can seamlessly complement an existing ERP system.

This book:

  • Provides a step-by-step roadmap on how to implement POLCA; invaluable for both companies that wish to implement POLCA as well as consultants and academics advising such companies.
  • Explains the concepts in practical and easy-to-understand terms by showing detailed shop-floor examples.
  • Includes more than 100 illustrations for understanding how POLCA works as well as for elaborating on details of the implementation steps.
  • Contains case studies written by company owners and executives documenting their POLCA implementation process and the results achieved in various industries in six countries.

Table of Contents

Part I: Understanding POLCA. 1.POLCA—Simple Yet Highly Effective: A Tale of Two Companies.  2. POLCA Explained: How It Works. 3. Operational Benefits of POLCA; Part II: Implementing POLCA. 4.Pre-POLCA Assessment, Prerequisites, and Preparation for POLCA. 5. Designing the POLCA System for Your Situation; 6. Accommodating Exceptions within the POLCA Framework. 7. Launching POLCA. 8 How We Designed and Launched POLCA in Three Days. 9. Sustaining POLCA: Post-Implementation Activities. Part III: Industry Case Studies. 10.  From the United States: Using POLCA to Eliminate Material Flow Chaos in an Aluminum Extrusion Operation. 11 From Canada: Applying POLCA in a Pharmaceutical Environment. 12. From the Netherlands: Creating Flow and Improving Delivery Performance at a Custom Hinge Manufacturer through QRM and POLCA. 13. From Belgium: Metalworking Subcontractor Reduces Lead Times by 85% Using QRM and POLCA. 14 From Poland: Dancing the POLCA in a Glass Factory. 15. From Germany: Yes, Even Small Companies Can Benefit from Implementing POLCA. Appendix A: Introduction to MCT: A Unified Metric for Lead Time. Appendix B: Overview of Quick Response Manufacturing (QRM). Appendix C: Perspectives on Applying MRP, Kanban, or Some Other Card-Based Systems to HMLVC Production Environments. Appendix D: Capacity Clusters Make High-Level MRP Feasible. Appendix E: The Sociotechnical Success Factors of POLCA. Appendix F: Experiences with Using a POLCA Simulation Game. Appendix G: Explanation of Formula for Number of POLCA Cards. Appendix H: POLCA: A State-of-the-Art Overview of Research Contributions. Appendix I: Additional Resources for POLCA Training and Games. Index. About the Author

View More



Rajan Suri is Emeritus Professor of Industrial Engineering at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. He received his Bachelors degree from Cambridge University (England) and his M.S. and Ph.D. from Harvard University.

Dr. Suri is the inventor of the POLCA system and published the first description of POLCA in his book Quick Response Manufacturing: A Companywide Approach to Reducing Lead Times (Productivity Press, 1998). Dr. Suri is also the author of over 100 technical publications and several other books including It’s About Time: The Competitive Advantage of Quick Response Manufacturing (Productivity Press, 2010).

Professor Suri is the Founding Director of the Center for Quick Response Manufacturing (QRM) at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, a consortium in which around 300 companies have worked with the University on understanding and implementing QRM strategies. He is internationally regarded as an expert on the analysis of manufacturing systems, and served as Editor-in-Chief of the Journal of Manufacturing Systems.

Dr. Suri has consulted for leading firms including 3M, Alcoa, AT&T, Boeing, Danfoss, Ford, Harley-Davidson, Hewlett Packard, IBM, John Deere, Mitsubishi, National Oilwell Varco, Pratt & Whitney, Rockwell Automation and TREK Bicycle. Consulting assignments in Europe and the Far East, along with projects for the World Bank, have given him an international perspective on manufacturing competitiveness.

Professor Suri has received awards from the American Automatic Control Council, The Institute of Management Sciences, and the IEEE. In 1999, Dr. Suri was made a Fellow of the Society of Manufacturing Engineers (SME), and in 2006 he received SME’s Albert M. Sargent Progress Award for the creation and implementation of the QRM strategy.

In 2010, Dr. Suri was one of only 10 people to be inducted into the Industry Week 2010 Manufacturing Hall of Fame for the development of QRM and for his long-standing efforts in helping U.S. manufacturers stay competitive in the global marketplace.

You can keep up to date on Professor Suri’s activities and publications through his website: rajansuri.com.


"When POLCA was introduced, theoretical situations in which the system would fail were used to criticize it. Twenty years later, as shown in the book, the system has proven to be much more flexible and adaptable than originally thought. If you are considering implementing POLCA, reading Suri’s new book with many examples, implementation guidelines and possible adaptations, therefore is a good idea. Everything is explained in plain language. (...) My conclusion regarding the book: The Practitioner’s Guide to POLCA is a very good and comprehensive book about POLCA and its possibilities and prerequisites (...)"

- Dr Jaap van Ede, editor-in-chief, Business-improvement.eu

"We had struggled to implement a pull system for our high-mix, low-volume products. Through implementing POLCA we dramatically reduced our work-in-process (WIP), freeing up cash and creating additional space for manufacturing. In addition, our internal chaos decreased, and customer satisfaction and profitability increased."

– Tom Schabel, CEO, Alexandria Industries, Alexandria, Minnesota

"Implementing POLCA was revolutionary for our company. Now our delivery time is revolutionary for our customers!"

– Godfried Kaanen, President & CEO, Bosch Hinges, The Netherlands

"Dr. Suri has created a truly innovative alternative to Kanban for companies that do non-repetitive work in small batches rather than in automotive-style volumes. This book gives clear direction to manufacturers so they can implement POLCA to dramatically improve the way they meet their customers' needs now and for years to come."

– Bill Ritchie, President, Tempus Institute, Maryville, Tennessee