Manufacturing Flexibility 




With only enough detail to support the premise of this paper, I will explain each of them:

• Continuous Improvement: A philosophy which originates with the attitude that each day we can do something better. Some present this philosophy as being of Eastern origin, but in reality it is the pure nature of the human being. Thanks to this behavior we have made it possible to improve our world a little bit each day (even if we doubt this when reading the news). This same attitude, translated to the plant level, searches for a large number of small projects that would have a stronger synergistic effect than a small number of large projects that avoid team and individual participation.

• Design for Manufacturability: Related with other ideas—for instance, concurrent engineering and process reengineering; the goal is to develop products and services while thinking of the customer who will receive them, and involving all those responsible for the task, even the customers themselves. Additionally, when designing our products and services, we should think in family standarization and growth, avoiding the NIH (not invented here) syndrome.

• Use of state-of-the-art technologies: Obtain a competitive advantage through the application of reasonable state-of-the-art technologies. When talking about technologies, it refers not only to computer or production-process technologies, but also to the organizational and management technologies that allow an enterprise to become more dynamic with a strong infrastructure.

• World class vendor selection: Applying an easy principle— Do not do to a third party something you wouldn't do to yourself—manufacturing companies have to find a way to include their vendors in their organizational, administrative, and production structures. That is not to say these companies have to verticalize themselves by acquiring their vendors, but they have to find ways to be partners with them in order to strengthen the link in the value chain to which they belong.

• Development toward a global company: All firms, regard­less of size, have to include in their medium-term plans a way to be included in the world market, at least looking to expand to a second country. This approach is required to balance the market and competitive pressures of the local market. Also, this gives the point of departure to grow beyond the restricted national markets.

• Cost: There is practically no business that has not or is not looking to obtain a competitive advantage through the reduc­tion of costs at the production level. Some do it by locating plants where the labor or the raw material is cheap, others look to achieve it through economies of scale, through the usage of state-of-the-art technologies, or with strict and effi­cient cost reduction programs. What these companies are looking for is: to sell a product at the calculated price, at the calculated margin, within the calculated cost, for the calculated budget, and with the calculated profit, meaning to achieve the "5 calculations" of competitiveness.

Quality: The concept of quality has, in an isolated way, been present in many firms in the past. Today, the challenge is not only to contribute with the value of quality, but to integrate the concept to the one of cost, withdrawing from the popular saying "it is expensive, but it is precious". What we have presently is an extraordinary battle between products with an excellent quality level at a reasonable price on the market. There is no doubt that this tendency will increase in time to unknown limits, benefiting the consumer. In this way we get the "5 expectations" of competitiveness: to produce the expected article, with the expected features, the expected functions, the expected advantages, and the expected benefits.

• Availability: This concept has been getting progressively stronger in the marketplace. If not considered, it will give unpleasant surprises to the unworried manufacturer. An enor­mous effort is present in world class manufacturers to deliver based on the required dates of their customers, contrary to the monthly scheduled delivery of the past. There is no doubt that, sooner or later, we will find companies with "domino think­ing": the delivery of product within 30 minutes, or the customer does not pay for the goods. Briefly, this concept can be summarized as the "5 corrects": To deliver the correct product, at the correct time, in the correct amount, to the correct customer, to the correct place.

• Flexibility: Many of the ideas presented here were actually developed by Henry Ford during the 1920s. Ford had almost all of them at hand, but one: manufacturing flexibility. When I think in flexible terms, I tend to think in something very different to the production model of Ford. It turns out that it has to be something different from the way car producers think; they avoid changing production schedules at all costs, building all cars the same color (it does not even have to be black). Actually, flexibility has its "5 any": to transform anything, for any volume, in any place, at any hour, with any production cell.

To be Continued


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