Manufacturing Flexibility 




The challenges for manufacturing companies are many and var­ied. Management asks for decision tools that allow them to make better decisions than in the past. At the same time, they have to offer better decision-making to their supervisors and employees. Competition is now present locally and globally, with more aggressive attitudes, and threatening to conquer traditionally dominated and protected markets. Economic, social, fiscal, eco­logical, and health regulations are more stringent than ever. And last but not least, customers and vendors are continuously linked to our companies to produce value chains that deliver products and services to the final consumer efficiently and effectively.

Manufacturing companies are now obliged to respond to these challenges with a greater degree of competitiveness, given the fact that this slack did not provide any pressure in the past. Now, the same companies are searching for innovative ways to win the daily battle on all fronts of the business. To have a marketing genius with a good promotional program to penetrate a specific market with a low-quality product is not enough anymore. Neither is having a financial expert who can get some margin from any product, even if it would be manufactured at high costs. The war is tough and we have to be prepared on all fronts, even in those we have forgotten for many years.

At the risk of sounding incredible, the last place where we are looking to gain a competitive advantage is where everything originates, at the production line, which is the front line in the competitive battle. We have made hundreds of improvements to obtain better market information, to have better financial decision tools, or even to conceive faster products, but have we made any structured or disciplined effort to improve the competitive levels of the plant as a whole?

It is true that we have made many independent advances. It is in this way that we find many techniques, methodologies, and philosophies that have invaded in a disordered way the desks of our plant, manufacturing, and production managers. In summary, I present the 9 components of competitiveness, but only those related to production in a manufacturing company. For better comprehension, I have divided them into two parts: the compet­itive factors and the competitive contributors.

The first factors, because of the broad and diverse way they affect the company, are philosophical in nature. This means that they have more to do with a way of living, thinking and acting at the plant level. These are:

• Continuous improvement

• Design for manufacturability

• Use of state-of-the-art technologies

• World class vendor selection

• Development towards a global company

The second group has a more methodological character—they are based on techniques, which require organizational adaptation to become valid, without being a specific method. These are:

• Cost

• Quality

• Availability

• Flexibility

To be Continued


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