Industry 4.0 Glossary

What Is Agile Manufacturing?

Agile manufacturing is a strategy that reduces the lead time for response in a manufacturing line.

This method enables manufacturers to develop products relevant to the changing needs of the customers and helps keep production aligned with fluctuating market demands. It also allows for reduced inventory and the costs associated with it.

How Is Agile Manufacturing Implemented

Implementing an agile manufacturing strategy requires businesses to begin by assessing the gap between current processes and the intended agile environment. Once completed,the assessment is used to define priorities for actions that will transform the current process. The key attributes of agile manufacturing are shorter response times and lesser inventory. Achieving this requires changes that are both internal and external to a manufacturing organization.

The first step of the internal change involves selecting a responsible committee or team that has the buy-in from management as well as the necessary authority to drive transformation. This committee will choose tools, engineer processes, and train employees to institutionalize agile manufacturing. Identification of fail-safes and back-ups are critical to deal with risks and uncertainties associated with shorter response times.

The external changes involve external stakeholders. Suppliers are a critical component of an agile transformation. Hence involving suppliers and establishing collective success parameters is a vital component of implementation of agile. Order lots need to decrease in size, allowing for quicker turn-around times. Hence bringing customers on board is also a critical requirement.

Once internal and external changes are implemented, companies execute agile transformation with complete visibility to all stakeholders through the power of tools and systems. This also enables small incremental changes that result in measurable improvements in the lines of continuous improvement.

The Main Features Of Agile Manufacturing

There are many essential components in implementing an agile manufacturing strategy, the most important features are defined below.

Product Design

The products of agile manufacturing are highly modular, which allows for quick modifications and adaptability. The modular design also means ready-to-assemble units, lesser inventory variance, smaller supplier diversity, and other factors contributing to agility.

Information Technology

IT infrastructure plays a vital role in agile manufacturing. It helps manufacturers stay on top of constantly evolving demands and market changes. It also ensures seamless communication between internal and external business entities. Planning & scheduling, a critical part of agile manufacturing, is best executed through relevant enterprise applications that seamlessly connect suppliers and in-line consumers like machine operators.

Knowledge Culture

Knowledge transfer, training sessions, and workshops are key elements in a successful agile manufacturing setup. Given the invariably flat hierarchy, everyone in the organization must have an overall understanding of the dynamics involved in recurrent changes and adaptation through which business is done. Also, appropriate training should be provided to all the players involved to succeed in agile manufacturing implementation.

The Benefits Of Agile Manufacturing

Agile and lean are terms that can be used interchangeably; however, they do not mean the same thing. Agile extensively focuses on speed, flexibility, and preparedness to handle changing requirements. Lean aligns efforts towards improving efficiency and minimizing waste.

Customer Focus

Agile manufacturing is structured around quickly addressing customers’ evolving needs.

Competitive Advantage

Agility in response results in shorter order-to-cash cycles. It also means lesser inventory, which contributes to lesser holding cost, lesser moving cost, lesser handling cost, and a host of other savings. All of these cost savings deliver cost competitiveness. Customer satisfaction and better supplier relationships are just happy side effects that come together to deliver a sustainable competitive advantage.

Optimized Response Rates

Swift response times to orders and service requests are beneficial results of agility. Shorter lead times also allow for better responses that eliminate risk, improve quality, and enhance the customer experience.

Harmony With Supply Chain

To ensure a production process will achieve its full potential, a steady flow of information across the supply chain is mandatory. Information concerning market indicators like demand, inflation, and fluctuation has a constant bearing on how a particular product performs. The ability to align all of these factors along with the supply chain helps manufacturers understand and predict specific changes that may be in the offing.