This article first appeared in the
Winter 2017 issue of The Record.
For years, most manufacturers concentrated on implementing lean operations, but they can no longer create or maintain a competitive advantage simply by being lean. While lean manufacturing has enabled many organisations to cut costs, it doesn’t always centre around what the customer really wants.
Agile manufacturing takes lean manufacturing to the next level by giving organisations the processes and systems they need to quickly respond to customer needs and market changes, but retain control of costs and quality. This type of manufacturing is the next step in the evolution of production methodology. It broadens the scope from production on the factory floor to every unit of the enterprise.
How do companies get from lean to agile? It’s primarily about a shift in focus based on advanced technology. While lean manufacturing emphasises the efficient use of resources, agile manufacturing focuses on improving processes through continuous change. This means demand forecasting and production schedules must be able to adjust quickly and effectively.
Much of the shift to agile manufacturing has been driven by the digital transformation of businesses via new technologies. At the core of these technologies are advanced, integrated enterprise resource planning (ERP) solutions connecting the entire business.
Implementing the right technology framework gives manufacturers visibility into operations across the entire business. Increased visibility combined with consolidated, real-time data offers companies actionable insights that enable faster, better business decisions.
The right ERP solution can also unify processes and workflows, eliminating disparate siloes. A more integrated product development process is supported by improved communication and scheduling, allowing tasks to be completed faster and more accurately.
Manufacturers using the right technology framework will gain a complete view of purchase history, sales order processes and inventory, enabling them to improve customer interactions. A well-integrated ERP solution can also help identify upsell and cross-sell opportunities.
Transitioning from lean to agile manufacturing is not a one-time project. It’s a continuous process that can only succeed if it’s based on a technology framework that allows organisations to make incremental adjustments without causing major disruptions. Manufacturers who implement these continuous changes will be better positioned to respond to market demands and ensure they have the right products in the right place at the right time.
Mark Hermans is senior vice president of DXC Technology’s delivery and project management team in North America
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