Are There Any Cures for These Problems?
Obviously, there is no magic solution, no
simple cure for such complex, intertwined, and diverse difficulties.
Everyone writing or speaking on these topics has some kind of fix,
usually prefaced by, "We must ... negotiate more open markets
... punish unfair traders ... get rid of labor unions ... lower the
cost of capital and make lenders more patient ... learn foreign ways
and sell more abroad ... improve education of youth and displaced
workers ... get our tort lawyers under restraint."
Unfortunately, too few of these suggestions include ideas of how to
The successful companies are evidence that
there is real hope for
improving manufacturing operations. We do
know what manufacturing is, how it should run, and what's required
to run it right. Manufacturing is the conversion of low value
materials to higher value products that customers will buy. It
involves three basic activities:
1. Planning—assigning numbers to future
2. Execution—converting plans to reality
3. Control—detecting significant
deviations from plans and
initiating corrective actions.
The purposes of planning and execution are
very different; planning defines resources needed to produce what is
planned while execution applies available resources to make what is
Regardless of almost infinite varieties of
materials, processes, markets, and policies, manufacturing has a
1. What products will be made? How many?
2. What resources are required to make them?
3. Which are already available?
4. Which are now ordered? When will they be
What else is needed? How many? When? There are three parties linked
in manufacturing: suppliers, plants, and customers. Materials should
flow, not lurch, from the first, through the second, to the third.
The major link is the plant's planning and control system tracking
progress in all three parties' activities against plans. It handles
data; people need information, meaning useful data, to make
decisions. The First Law of Manufacturing, applicable to all types,
All benefits will be directly proportional
to the speeds of flow of materials and information
Common techniques are applicable to any type
manufacturing, applied, like all tools, to the specific conditions
existing in each. To achieve the flexibility so essential to survive
in global competition, techniques must fit the basic strategy:
Don't commit flexible resources to any
specific item until the last possible moment.
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