Agile Manufacturing – A Recent Trend In Manufacturing

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The idea of Agile Manufacturing (AM) now had been around for nearly a decade. AM is the first major manufacturing theory that has sense of history built into it, in fact integral to it. The AM paradigm provides necessary strategic frame work to allow companies to behave in an adaptive and flexible manner permitting continuous evaluation in an increasing demanding and competitive market. Agility is the measure of manufacturer’s ability to react to sudden unpredictable change in customer demand for its products and services and make a profit. The major characteristic of AM is to organize to master change. The main capability indicators of AM are product, process and people. The vital design strategies comprises of feeder systems, conveyor systems, modular worktables and multi purpose arm tooling. Reliability and efficiency in robotic part handling is achieved by accurate gripper design. Small changes to a product in the initial stages of design show a marked impact during final production.

Manufacturing environments are becoming more dynamic and turbulent than ever before. Traditional manufacturing facilities, however, are not able to cope with such environments, as no single facility can be flexible enough to cope with such a large magnitude of change in products and production requirements. As a result, new types of manufacturing facilities are needed for the emerging manufacturing environments. Such facilities must be able to be reconfigured over time, both quickly and easily, in order to cope with change. These are often referred to as agile manufacturing facilities, and the environments as agile manufacturing environments.

Agile Manufacturing is a term that has seen increased use in industry over the past several years. Agility is measure of manufacturer’s ability to react to sudden, unpredictable change in customer demand for its products and services and make a profit. Today factories are coming on lines that are agile at tailoring goods to a customer’s requirements, without halting production. In the past, production was geared toward high-volume production of a single product. In today’s market, however, the emphasis is moving toward small lot sizes from an ever-changing, customer-driven product line.

Agile Manufacturing may be defined as “The ability of an organization to thrive in the competitive environment of continuous and unanticipated change and to respond quickly to rapidly changing markets driven by customer based valuing of products and services.”

Characteristics Of Agile Manufacturing

Manufacturing companies that are agile competitors tend to exhibit these principles or characteristics .The four principles are

1. Organize to Master Change – An agile company is organized in a way that allows it to thrive on change and uncertainty. In a company that is agile, the human and physical resources can be rapidly reconfigured to adapt changing environment and market opportunities.

2. Leverage the Impact of People and Information – In an agile company, knowledge is valued, innovation is rewarded, and authority is distributed to the appropriate level of organization. Management provides the resources that personal need. The organization is entrepreneurial in spirit. There is a climate of mutual responsibility of joint success.

3. Cooperate to Enhance Competitiveness – Cooperation internally and with other companies is an agile competitor’s operational strategy of the first choice. The objective is to bring products to market as rapidly as possible. The required resources and competencies are found and used, wherever they exist. This may involve partnering with the other companies, possibly even competing companies, to form virtual enterprises.

4. Enrich the Customer – An agile company is perceived by its customers as it enriching them in a significant way, not only itself. The products of an agile company are perceived as solutions to customer’s problems. Pricing of the product can be based on the customer rather on manufacturing cost.

The list of four agility principles indicates agile manufacturing involves more than just manufacturing. It involves the firms organizational structures, it involves the way the firm treats it people, it involves partnerships with other organizations, and it involves relationships with customers.

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