Lean production systems

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Lean productions systems have become compulsory .They have become hygiene factors for a manufacturing company.Implementing lean manufacturing principles will help provide the foundation to make demand driven strategies a success & ultimately deliver suitable customer value. Additionally, having a supply chain comprised of lean factories allows you to get more benefit from later supply chain optimization efforts.

Secondly, the traditional mass production approach emphasizes lowering costs through capital utilization and large batch sizes. In this environment, producing a greater variety of products means that each product is produced less often and inventories must increase. With lean manufacturing practices, setup times are reduced, allowing smaller batches to be run in a cost-effective manner. Smaller batch sizes greatly reduce cycle time, which is necessary for a build-to- order system to work effectively. Before a company can offer more product variety, their factories must be capable of producing a high mix of products in relatively small quantities.

Leanness is a different concept to agility. The term lean is used because lean manufacturing is concerned with doing everything with less. In other words, the excess of wasteful activities, unnecessary inventory, long lead times, etc are cut away through application of just in time manufacturing, concurrent engineering, overhead cost reduction, improved supplier & customer relationships, total quality management (TQM), Just in time (JIT), Kaizen, etc. These Japanese production systems have helped the Japanese companies to attain world class competitiveness and they have been adopted by other companies across the globe.Manufacturing industry has taken a major paradigm shift. This shift has taken us away from mass production, way beyond lean manufacturing, into a world of agile manufacturing.

The corporations are undergoing massive transformations – reengineering business processes, flattening hierarchies, empowering people, implementing lean production concepts, computer integrated manufacturing, ERP, etc. However to achieve a competitive lead the companies should do something that the competitors are not doing. The aim of agile manufacturing is to put the enterprise in front of primary competitors by developing agile properties. This agility will then be used for competitive advantage, by being able to rapidly respond to changes occurring in the market environment and exploiting a fundamental resource – knowledge.

Agility is defined as quick moving, nimble and active. This is clearly not the same as flexibility which implies adaptability and versatility. Agility & flexibility are therefore different things. When we link computers across applications, across functions & across enterprise we do not achieve agility. We might achieve a necessary condition for agility, that is rapid communication and the exchange & reuse of data, but not agility.

Agility has been defined in several ways. Here are 2 examples: “An Agile corporation is a fast moving, adaptable and robust business enterprise capable of rapid reconfiguration in response to market opportunities. Such a corporation is founded on appropriate processes and structures and the integration of technology, organization and people into a coordinated system in order to achieve a quantum leap forward in competitive performance by delivering capabilities that surpass those obtained from current enterprise practices.”(Kidd 1995)

“The Agility that arises can be used for competitive advantage, by being able to respond rapidly to changes occurring in the market environment and through the ability to use and exploit a fundamental resource – knowledge. People need to be brought together, in dynamic teams formed around clearly defined market opportunities, so that it becomes possible to lever one another’s knowledge. Through this process is sought the transformation of knowledge into new products and services.”

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