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Integrate

To integrate is to bring together as a whole; fit together; unify; or to make whole or complete by the addition of necessary parts. Our quest for excellence must involve integration of the many diverse (and often divergent) elements of our organization as well as our supply chain and our channels of distribution. Sharing ideas, concerns, plans and status among these entities can and will improve our effectiveness and the timeliness in meeting our real objectives.

Renee Gregoire and Patrick Delaney [15] suggest that a company must grow beyond a functional strategy (the individual departments develop their own plans independent of each other) to an integrated strategy (the company cross-functionally develops and executes a broad-based business strategy). In the functional approach, the departments operate in a vacuum toward their independent goals, not as a cohesive entity. They fail to recognize the implications of their actions on each other and require considerable management coordination. The integrated approach requires much less coordination and is well synchronized to attain competitive advantage in the marketplace.

Tellabs successfully implemented employee involvement programs supporting their JIT/TQC efforts by integrating all of their involvement/people systems programs. Donna Neusch [16] relates their approach which included training, certification, compensation, and performance appraisal programs under this integrated umbrella.

The growth of information systems that integrate business functions and support new business opportunities is reported by Ernest von Simson [21]. He references several companies that have extended this integration beyond internal linkage of functions to include direct information linkage with customers and suppliers. By so doing, they "made the process of doing business with the company a reason to do business with it."

Richard Ling and George Palmatier [22] maintain that an effective demand management system integrates the sales, marketing and manufacturing functions and executive management in a unified effort. Their experience shows that this process is inhibited by poor communication systems within most companies. There is a need for properly

integrated business planning systems to overcome departmentalization, lack of understanding, and lack of adequate communication.

John Martin [23] amplifies this view by extending the principle to the entire organization, proposing that comprehensive information systems be developed to flow information throughout the company. The key is to understand how the entire enterprise moves and uses information, then support it. Process/product movement and information flow must be tied together seamlessly. Information provides competitive advantage when provided when and as needed.

Another approach to integration is recommended by David Nelson [24]: a "mix of art and science" that starts with development of a list of critical issues to be addressed by a unifying strategy. Customer expectations, current capabilities/deficiencies, competitive situation, status of internal operations, and vendor environment should be evaluated. Then an all-encompassing strategy can be developed to integrate all company physical resources and functional activities. Nelson notes that becoming integrated is only the start. Staying integrated is often as difficult as getting there. The integrative strategy (and all its elements) should be reviewed and updated at least yearly. Doing so should remind us why we are in business in the first place.

Every "make-and-sell" business is a system for designing, producing, and delivering goods to customers according to Graham Sharman [26]. He proposes that logistics, covering the total range of activities concerned with the movement of materials (including information and control systems), is a unifying medium for all the traditional functions involved in the system. He states that "it is impossible to manage logistics effectively unless its integrative nature is taken seriously."

An interesting analogy for the integrated environment we are trying to create is suggested by Kiyoshi Suzaki [6]: a symphony orchestra. Each musician has unique, well-developed skills; each instrument has its own sound. Only when these different elements are coordinated into a unified performance does the orchestra achieve World-Class performance. Then it performs with beautiful harmony, tone, and rhythm.

This is the ideal for a manufacturing organization: All elements should fit together. Each player should understand his/her role and perform it with appropriate consideration for the whole organization, sharing its overall goals and following the "score." As more people understand their role in the overall context and work together with others to achieve the shared objective, the organization will become effectively integrated and will be capable of responding well to change, with an eye to improving itself.

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