We hear much about how important process reliability is to achieving our objective of lean manufacturing, but what about the sometimes contrary goal of flexible manufacturing? As a consultant in the field of process reliability, I regularly encounter interfunctional conflict regarding the sometimes opposing goals of maintaining flexibility and reliability in the manufacturing process. Sales and marketing wants to offer the customer unlimited customization, both in terms of product and delivery, which increases the variety and frequency with which the manufacturing machines are set up. This, of course, can reduce availability, yield and quality - the three elements of overall equipment effectiveness (OEE), or overall business effectiveness (OBE), as I prefer to view it. Can the goals of flexible and reliable manufacturing coexist? I believe that with foresight and planning, the answer is yes. Let's explore this further.
Generally, machines are most reliable when they are run at constant speed, under constant load and under constant conditions. For example, highway driving yields the longest life from a passenger car - whereas short-tripping, frequently starting and stopping the vehicles, reduces life. Managers and engineers who are responsible for the machines in manufacturing plants prefer to minimize starts, stops and changeovers for the very same reason - starting, stopping and retooling machines reduces process reliability. However, for many manufacturers, customers are expecting to "have it their way," and sales and marketing executives are screaming "give the lady what she wants!" This required flexibility, in terms of the product and its packaging and logistics and distribution, is the new business as usual for many manufacturers.
The desire to turn back the clock to a simpler time when customers simply bought what the manufacturer put in front of them - and be happy to get it - is a pipe dream. In today's environment of micromarketing, the ability to customize the offering to meet the varied desires of different customers isn't just an optional differentiation strategy, it's a necessity for survival. As manufacturing pros, we must adapt. Complaining about the disruptions customization causes will fall on deaf ears if customization is required for the firm to survive and thrive.
The demand or flexibility in manufacturing will increase, not wane. At the same time, we must be reliable. This is a tough challenge. Here are some survival tips to minimize interfunctional conflict between your sales/marketing and manufacturing organizations.
Two business imperatives - flexibility and reliability - how can they coexist? For many industries, the answer is simple: You must do so to survive. The demand for customization will increase. The winners will deliver it, and do so reliably. Reliability professionals should not fight the trend toward customization. Rather, do your part to enable it! To the victors come the spoils: increased return on net assets and rising share price.
|BRING DREW TO YOU|
Want to supercharge your knowledge on lean manufacturing and/or effective plant reliability management? Want to make a bottom-line impact in 2008? You can accomplish both by inviting Reliable Plant's Drew D. Troyer to speak at your event or company meeting. Drawing on his personal plant experiences and MBA - along with an entertaining and spirited style - he has a unique ability to challenge and inform professionals at all levels.
For more details, contact Stacey McCauley at 800-597-5460, ext. 121.