B1. Analyze Simulation Results
A budget is a financial plan which is expressed in real numbers, typically in monetary units, which set the expectations for the expenses the company will incur to reach its goals, and management objectives. A good budget uses forecasts to determine what amounts should be used to reach desired efficiency and profitability. Budgets can be used to determine whether a not a process is working effectively, whether or not changes in operations need to be made in order to reach goals, and can help solve problems before they occur and help make changes when necessary. Budgets are important because they provide a quantitative measurement to establish goals, coordinate efforts and departments, and help to realize changes are needed before problems occur. Budgets should be broken down into fragments (short term, mid-term, and long term) which will allow for more precise measurement of the success of a project, allow for changes to be made before moving onto new projects, and to expand on goals when appropriate.
By setting short term budget goals and reaching them it helps to ensure that the company is on pace to reach its long term objectives. Budgets need to be revised whenever they no longer useful for planning and control purposes. Anytime there are major changes in the processes or operations the budgets will also need to be revised. Budget figures should be measured frequently to ensure they are still reasonable and that the company is still on track to reach its goals. A Pro-Forma Statement is defined as “a financial statements prepared on the basis of some assumed events and transactions that have not yet occurred.” (Ralph Estes).
Unlike Historical Financial Statements which use real scientific information and are based on facts, Pro-Forma Financial Statements use assumptions to help forecast the future and allow for the use of creativity and flexibility. Pro-Forma Financial Statements are similar to Historical Financial Statements in look and content, both use the same major financial statements including the income statement and the balance sheet, but the Pro-Forma Financial Statement allows for changes to be made in the volatile environment.
Pro-Forma Statements are important because they provide the needed information to track progress towards goals. They are based on historic figures so they do provide realistic projections while still allowing for adjustments as needed. Typically a long collection of historic data is used to produce a Pro-Forma Income statement; since the company I created was a start up our information was limited there was even more of a reliance on projections to complete my statements. In the first quarter I had start up factory expenses of $430,000 and spent $120,000 on market research. I had gained $3,000 in interest from a small deposit into a short term CD. I had invested $1,100,000 for fixed plant capacity. Of the $2,000,000 of initial capital $547,000 was used for start-up expenses leaving the company with $1,453,000 in current assets.
Important decisions had to be made during Quarter 1 in order to make my projections and set my budgets and expectations. First I had to choose what products to manufacture. I wanted to look for two segments which had some similar wants and needs. By developing two products for two segments with similar wants and needs the hope was that I would be pay off later in saving manufacturing costs by utilizing customization of parts, decrease training costs, cut down on salary expense by having a sales force that could be knowledgeable with both products, and would allow the company to provide better service after the sale. The decisions were all based upon the market research which had been done providing the wants and needs of the segments as well as the price willing to pay, the 12 month demand, and the demand per city. By performing some simple calculations (i.e. price willing to pay X Demand / cost to produce) I was able to make an informed decisions on the two products I wanted to develop, where I wanted to set up shop, the size of my sales force, as well as the amount of inventory to produce.
I decided to manufacture two products which I felt met the needs of two specific groups. The first group was decided upon due to the quantity of the demand. I felt around this product I could better reach my goal of utilizing an employee empowerment strategy, being able to utilize work cells due to less technical processes and needs, be able to take advantage of customization of parts, and also be able to offer better service after the sales due to increased employee knowledge of the product and the service needed. I decided to focus my efforts on the Workhorse and the Traveler markets. Both markets had similar needs and the products would only need to differ in portability. The market was large and although the desired price would be lower, the higher demand would help generate profit. The hope was to build the distinction of being the low price leader while still providing a reliable product and providing excellent service after the sale.
By setting proper starting budgets and being able to adjust accordingly by utilizing the pro-forma statements I was able to make sound financial decisions throughout the simulation. I never had to use emergency loans so I was able to avoid that penalty and cost. By using the statements was even able to make small investments and earn some interest off of those funds. Being a startup company I was very conservative with my investments so I could ensure I would not incur those costs. At the end of the 4th quarter my ending cash balance was over 4 million dollars. This allows for great expansion and higher sales as well as the ability to invest more funds and take advantage of additional interest income. Without the use of the statements and the budget it would not have been possible to monitor the spending and make informed decisions.
The Pro-Forma statements and budgets were used to make decisions throughout the entire simulation. Each Quarter I began by examining the cash flow statement. This allowed me to make proper decisions based on the Firm’s solvency as well as my company’s potential for growth. At the beginning of Quarter 1 I had $0 in my beginning cash balance. Thus it was necessary to sell common stock. $2 million dollars were raised through the sale of common stock. It was very important to use my income statements, original budgets, and monitoring my balance sheet. $1.1 million of the funds would be used to invest in my fixed plant capacity in order to reach the needed production levels. With the funds on hand I was only able to open 2 sales offices. I chose the locations based on the projected sales demand, the allotted funds in the budget, and the money left in the cash flow. The two offices cost $430,000 to start up and would also cost a total of $220,000 per quarter for lease.
After setting up the Plant capacity and the Sales Offices I had $470,000 dollars left. I still needed funds for Research and Development to ensure that I was making proper decisions and to help guide my decisions in future quarters. I decided to spend $120,000 on research and development. This left me $350,000 in excess cash. I decided to invest a portion of it but was careful using my Pro-Forma statements to ensure that I would not run into the cost of emergency cash loans. $200,000 was placed into a conservative short term C.D. which earned me $3,000 in interest income. The $3,000 and the excess $150,000 would be carried over into the next quarter.
The same techniques were used every decision every quarter. Any time I made a decision it was based on my cash flow, income statements and demand projections. Lessons were learned from these decisions, more funding into research and development needed to be used early in the simulation. The result of the poor planning led to the expense of products needing to be redesigned. The carry over equipment had to be sold for salvage value and additional funding needed to be raised to develop the new products. With the proper products in place for the market demand the profits would have been much larger for my company.
Just in Time operations is basically a system which helps force problem solving and drives down start-up costs and inventory costs by initiating a pull system driven by consumer demand and reducing inventory to meet the customer’s needs only when the customer has that need. If the product is not available at the time of demand a problem is found and improvements need to be made. This is very important to any company but especially for a start-up company who really need to watch their cash flow to avoid any emergency loans and the cost and fees associated with them. In my projections I had to take into account the demand of the segments in the cities decided to serve and make educated estimates on how much to produce based on those calculations.
There were still questions which needed to be answered which led to less aggressive manufacturing; would my advertising efforts convey the right message to my target audience? Would my choices on where to advertise be successful on reaching my target audience? Would my product designs and branding fit the needs of my customers or would new products need to be developed? The answers to these questions could lead to major adjustments to our entire process and if not done well could lead to an excess of unused inventory which would only be able to recover a small part of the cost it took to develop them.
Estimates were made based on the projected sales demands of the markets. Fixed capacity, sales force decisions, and of course inventory decisions were made based on these projections. The idea of course was to have the perfect amount of inventory available to my customers at the exact time they needed them, with very little cost from carrying over unused inventory. Proper use of a Just-in-time strategy could have saved me money and helped expand my company’s growth. During the manufacturing process a Just-in-time strategy would’ve have uncovered the need to increase production to meet my customers’ demand as the products were being “pulled through” the assembly process.
The improper use of the JIT strategy resulted in a loss of 278 Venture II customers and 143 customers of Quest II. The result of these lost customers was $578,453 in profit. By properly utilizing the strategy profits could have been even higher and future growth could have increased. Going forward it will be important to utilize the performance of the past year and make better decisions to provide for a better customer experience. Fortunately after the losses occurred decisions were made to make sure it did not happen again throughout the simulation. A good Just-In-Time strategy would have allowed the mistakes to be caught prior to having to absorb the losses and the poor customer experiences.
B2b. Lean Operations
Lean operations work hand in hand with making J.I.T. effective. By definition lean operations are used to understand customer’s needs and then to stock and prepare appropriately based on said needs. In my project this was done by successful forecasting based on potential demand of the customers in the given areas and based on the chosen products. By basing our inventory on a lean operations focus the company will be able to decrease the costs of waste in it’s operations, both in unused inventory and the cost of storing excess inventory.
B3. Applicability of Work Cells versus Traditional Straight Line Method An effective layout design strategy is important because the decision alone can help decide the efficiency of production as well as help to determine a firm’s competitive advantage. How will the firm be looking to set itself apart? Will it be through differentiation, low cost, or response? Will the company’s priorities focus on capacity, processes, flexibility, and/or cost, etc.? In its very basic form an effective layout design will improve efficiency by better utilizing space, people, and machinery, improving communication, improving inspection, and by allowing for flexibility. Work Cells are specially arranged groups of workers and workstations designed to make the production of a single product or group of related products more efficient by allowing workers to have more reach in the work area, allow for immediate inspection of complete product, fewer workers are needed, less work space, and promotes better communication between workers.
Workers often accept the responsibility of building the product from start to finish in a more positive light because of the empowerment it provides and the specialized training and expanded knowledge. Work Cells are often in the shape of a “U” allowing for better balance and division of work. The U-shape also will take up more space on the floor than the Traditional Straight Line process method. A Traditional Straight Line process method is the old assembly line assembly process. Each worker is responsible for a piece of a product. That piece is then put together with other pieces and the final product is put together in a series of pieces. The assembly line relies on workstations to be balanced in the share of the work to be effective however; the layout alone often leads to an unbalanced division of the workload. The pieces cannot be inspected until the finished product has been fully assembled by the varying teams, and communication and diverse learning is very limited.
The assembly line approach also leads to the possibility of a “bottleneck” effect where total production can be slowed by slow production from one of the work units. The advantages of the assembly lines are of course a less expensive and quicker training process, more standardization of parts, and lower handling costs. The decision on which method to use was a difficult one. One of the reasons I chose the two products that I did was because of their similarities and the ability to use customizable parts. However another key to the success was the ability to capitalize on efficient inventory management and processing. Another key was employee empowerment through knowledge which would lead to better service and the ability to recognize and fix problems as they occur during the assembly process. With this being said I would implement a work cell assembly approach.
B4. Decisions Involving Inventory Management
Understanding the relationship between inventory levels and customer needs is a critical part of any company’s success. Too much inventory can lead to extra costs for the company in the form of storage costs of unused inventory and the expense of selling off unused inventory at discount prices. Not having enough inventory can lead to poor customer experiences by not being able to meet the customer’s needs when needed. This leads to fewer repeat sales and poor relationships. In order for a company to have a low cost strategy they must master inventory levels.
As discussed earlier I did not do a good job of inventory management and it cost me in the form of profits and customer satisfaction. The idea is to be perfect and I was far from it. I underestimated the increase in demand after improvements were made in product design and marketing. The result was having higher demand than inventory available. The miscalculations of potential demand cost my company through the simulation and it is very important to execute better inventory management decisions in the future to avoid such issues and losses in the future. My growth decisions were made properly in the form of additional markets, additional sales and service staff, and more fixed capacity capabilities. However, I did not make good inventory management decisions to match the growth demands.
The idea of inventory management is of course to find the perfect balance of meeting my customers’ needs while limiting my costs in holding costs and excess capacity costs. It was again necessary to utilize my pro-forma statements to monitor these expenses. The inventory needs were based on demand projections, marketing efforts, and the number of sales people hired. Since my company was a start-up company with little or no brand recognition it was important to find a conservative figure which would still fit the customers’ wants and needs. In the initial Quarter I chose to project demand at 100 units per sales person. I had confidence in my product in the first quarter and decided to leave 43 units of Venture and 32 units of Quest as carryover.
The hope was not to run into issues of Sales lost and a loss of customers due to poor experiences. The problem I ran into was due to poor research and development the target market did not find either of my products desirable to fit their needs as they were. My confidence quickly turned into an error in Inventory Management. The remaining units had to be sold at a Salvage price ($846.40 for Venture and $870.40 for Quest). The set price on Venture was $2500 and Quest was $3200, the cost to produce Venture was $1667 and Quest was $1698. This was an enormous loss in potential profits for my company and better use of inventory management and of course research and development could have prevented it.
The new products were produced that met the customers’ wants and needs and I decided based on the research which was provided and the history of sales I would be more aggressive with my inventory levels. The sales force was increased to 16 people in Quarter 3 with a demand per sales person of 148, and based on the success in Quarter 4 the sales people were increased to 25 people with an estimate of 225 units per sales person. Due to the increase in demand caused by the additional production more inventory would left at the end of the quarter.
The recommendation was that inventory levels should be left at a range of 25 to 50 units of each product, but based on the confidence of sales I increased those ranges and decided to have 86 Venture II units and 64 Quest II units in inventory left at the end of each quarter. I had no missed sales because of a lack of inventory and fortunately did not have to sell any unwanted inventory at salvage prices. Costs did increase in Quarter 4 both in holding costs and excess capacity costs but the cash increases were more than enough to justify the additional inventory.
B5. Use of Specific Continuous Programs to Achieve Quality Assurance Goals.
Having a culture which promotes quality from top to bottom affects the company in many positive ways; if it starts at the top it becomes a culture which then empowers employees and leads to better customer satisfaction. There are several different programs which help to measure quality; 1.) Continuous Improvement, 2.) Six Sigma, 3.) Employee Empowerment, 4.) Benchmarking, 5.) Just in Time (J.I.T.), 6. Taguchi Concepts and 7.) Knowledge of Total Quality Management (T.Q.M.) Tools. Every aspect of operations can be improved and of course the overall goal is perfection. The cost of defective parts and or systems can be dramatic for a company and difficult to recover. Therefore it is very important to have the proper programs in place to measure quality.
I believe two Quality Inspection programs would have been beneficial for my company. It was very important to my company as well as my target customers for us to provide a quality reliable product and have the service in place after the sale for my customers. I believe by implementing an Employee Empowerment program I can help develop quality on both the production side as well as on the service side.
Employee Empowerment involves expanding the employees’ roles and responsibilities so that empowerment and belief is spread throughout the company from the highest to the lowest level. By including such responsibilities to the lowest level there is a greater chance that defections or needed improvements will be both addressed as well as shared by the employees who are using the machinery and involved in the everyday operations of the company. With high morale and open communication lines the company should be able to reach the desired quality.
The desired quality which the company will be seeking will be determined by using a quality program called Benchmarking. That desired quality will be what our products and services will look like at their very best. All other performances will be judged by comparing to this benchmark. A team will need to be assembled, benchmarking partnerships will need to be formed, data will need to be collected and compared, and improvements will need to be to try and reach our benchmarks. Our benchmarking efforts will analyze such important factors as percentage of defects, customer satisfaction rate, cost per unit, return on investment, customer retention, and response time.
1. Ralph Estes Dictionary of Accounting (MIT, Cambridge, 1981, p. 105)
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