Got Manufacturing Flexibility?


A FedEx truck is parked next to a UPS truck as both drivers make deliveries in downtown San DiegoThe recent UPS/FedEx debacle around the holidays shows that customers are very demanding and will get very disappointed if their orders are not there when they want them. That can have an impact on your brand and your bottom line if they go someplace else. This demanding nature reverberates up from end consumers to retailers to manufacturers.

In this age of mass customization, where customers can order products with seemingly infinite permutations of features/functions, the amount of stress and strain that puts on a manufacturer can be a real challenge…Are you equipped to be able to see where your delivery dates are?

Some trends manufacturers are seeing in this regard include:

• Decreasing order sizes

• Increasing number of SKUs

• Demand for fast and precise delivery

• Demand for quick response to changing requirements and demands

The days of one long run of product are gone…flexibility is key in this new reality. It’s not realistic to have one production line per product variation. Lines need to be as flexible and efficient to be able to maintain the variation of orders.

Ordering a Kindle® as a gift this past holiday season showed this. For that one product, I, as a consumer, had choices in the type of Kindle, as well as the features in each. This translates into many permutations of production runs for the manufacturer.

The impact to the manufacturer are frequent changeovers, handling a growing number of production orders, dynamic changing demand, as well as the ability to have flexible capacity to handle orders.

So are you able to maintain flexibility in your orders?

Some signs you’re missing the boat:

1499614_10152110608574090_1543383911_n• Using spreadsheets or whiteboard for scheduling

• Frequently outdated schedules

• Inability to simulate consequences of new orders, changes and variation

• Poor delivery date calculations

• High stock and WIP levels

• Excessive use of overtime

• Frequent changeovers

How well positioned are you in this new reality? Share your thoughts.

Paul Adams

Paul has spent more than 20 years in manufacturing with GE’s Intelligent Platforms business, focusing on product development. His deep industry experience comes from countless calls, meetings and visits to manufacturers around the globe to help solve their business challenges. Today, he works in Global Professional Services, which allows him to continue working with GE’s manufacturing customers at a more downstream function. Wonder what challenges he’s helping manufacturers solve today? Connect with Paul on LinkedIn.

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