ProActive Manufacturing 




Manufacturing companies' business challenges haven't changed much over the years. Survival, profit, growth, service, quality, and productivity are still important drivers of the business. What has changed is the focus on time as a strategic competitive weapon to meet these challenges. As Tom Peters puts it in Time-Obsessed Competition, "Competing in time will be the primary battle­ground of the 1990s ... time-based revolutions ... are redefining entire industries and putting competitors out of business."

The objective of this paper is to illustrate why traditional systems approaches are no longer sufficient when competing against time. We will explain why a new proactive, time-critical approach to systems is needed to maximize results and achieve a truly significant competitive advantage.

Historical Perspective

The Need to Reintegrate

Computer-Integrated Manufacturing is a term that was first introduced in a book of the same title by Dr. Joseph Harrington, Jr., back in 1974. He had hoped the term would not create another acronym. However, CIM is in common use today. Later, he explained that the term integration should more appropriately have been reintegration. Over the past 200 years manufacturing has become fragmented and dis-integrated. As demand grew for more product volume, manufacturing evolved from its simplest form of CIM (Craftsman-Integrated Manufacturing, where a single craftsman integrated muscle skill and know-how to make a product) to an organization where labor was divided and specialized and where coordination and communication became more difficult. Major gaps in time and information have crept into the process causing increased delays, reduced flexibility, and slower responsiveness. Later, computerization only made things worse by batching information and creating islands of automation that provided information too late to be effective or useful.

In the 1990s, we see manufacturing enterprises trying to use mech­anization, automation, and computerization to reintegrate manu­facturing. By reintegrating, manufacturers attempt to create a synergy by combining the unity, strength, and flexibility of the craftsman with the capacity for volume and productivity of modern technology. Reintegration is a process of getting back to doing business on a real-time, integrated and simultaneous basis.

A major challenge to reintegration, however, is that most systems approaches, even those touting the latest flash and sizzle technol­ogies, aren't up to the task. This is because they are fundamentally reactive in nature. They fail to provide the right information fast enough to solve problems as they are occurring.

Continuous Improvement of Systems

From the 1960s through the 1980s, many of us lived through Continuous Improvement as our systems strategies have evolved to meet the increased competitive pressures placed on manufac­turers (Figure 1).

In the early days of computerization, manufacturers implemented survival systems such as basic inventory accounting (to know what was on hand) and order point (which acted as a reactive reorder




Figure 1. Continuous Improvement

trigger). Next, they began to proactively plan material with MRP (Material Requirements Planning).

MRP helped create great plans but we soon learned that to plan was easy—to close the loop and control execution of the plan was the tough part. We then integrated capacity planning, priority dispatching, input/output control, and financial control under the MRP II (Manufacturing Resource Planning) umbrella. Pretty soon vendor scheduling and electronic data interchange became more widespread and the practice of frequent scheduling revisions was amplified. At the same time, American firms relearned what they taught the Japanese. Work-in-process queues were declared evil and were reduced, surfacing problems with setup and quality. Just-in-Time principles became,the leading-edge approach to eliminating waste and simplifyingV'ork. The Total Quality Man­agement (TQM) crusade also became popular around this time.

In the 1980s, we also witnessed more aspects of CIM (Computer-Integrated Manufacturing) become reality. All too often, how­ever, CIM remained merely a vision sold to manufacturers by consultants and the technology industry.

As companies searched for panaceas by attempting to use these strategies, they usually found that they all suffered from a similar Achilles' heel. The systems in place to support the concepts and strategies had not kept pace and actually became limiting factors. Time-Critical Manufacturing is the next step in the journey.

To be Continued


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