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Agile Manufacturing Will Take the Lead in 2019

As manufacturers and supply chain executives, we know that breaking down traditional divisions in organizational structures make for more productive and profitable operations. As we move into the new year, it’s imperative to make the adoption of agile a win-win proposition for your company’s bottom line and human resources alike.

By ·
By ·

Editor’s note: Mark Dohnalek is President & CEO of Pivot International, the Kansas-based global product development, engineering & manufacturing firm.

Over past decades we watched, learned and embraced advances in the manufacturing and supply chain industries. We can recall just-in-time manufacturing and then came the very popular management process, lean. Now, as we enter the final year of this decade and prepare for the next, we can expect agile to be the leader in approach. Here’s why. Designed to incorporate the best of just-in-time and lean manufacturing models, an agile paradigm is just that: a way of conducting manufacturing operations with real-time, highly coordinated adaptability in response to rapidly changing consumer demand and market conditions. By achieving flexible control over cost and quality, agile manufacturers will benefit by having a distinct competitive advantage.

Agile manufacturing draws its power from small, interconnected teams who assume collaborative responsibility for specific objectives that function as a seamless, dynamic whole. The two guiding principles for these teams to follow are flexibility and adaptive cooperation. This should happen not only within teams, but between teams. By integrating this way, production can be monitored, measured and quantified, and strategically mobilized on demand to assist and supplement the goal implementations of all teams involved.

When companies adopt the agile approach, they have greater potential to overcome problems that are intrinsic to more monolithic organizational structures. This includes mobilizing a highly flexible, synchronized “swarm approach” to challenges and threats. Having the ability to quickly “change direction” in ways that are impossible for non-agile organizational structures and processes. Just as importantly, a supply chain partners must also share in the agile approach to have optimize processes and coordination. 

Having an agile mindset is critical for success in achieving agile practices. We know an agile mindset requires levels of perspectival complexity or “systems thinking” which can take considerable time to cultivate.  Agile practices exist not to reduce but rather to release complexity from a system but often the agile mindset puts it back in. That is because an agile organization entails many more points of contact or “interfaces” between teams, divisions, and processes than is the case with more monolithic organizations. Said differently, an agile structure means that many more “moving parts” and feedback loops must be made sense of and managed than those of traditional structures.

For 2019 and beyond, we can anticipate more widespread adoption of agile manufacturing in achieving enhanced efficiency and quality in the face of rapidly changing market conditions. Agile manufacturing is a combination of nimble flexibility and highly coordinated adaptability. It is intended to overcome rigidities, bottlenecks, and “route lock” that hinder more traditional, conventionally “siloed” operations.

As manufacturers and supply chain executives, we know that breaking down traditional divisions in organizational structures make for more productive and profitable operations. As we move into the new year, it’s imperative to make the adoption of agile a win-win proposition for your company’s bottom line and human resources alike.


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EDITORS' PICKS
Supply Chain Management Issues Confronting Us This Year
A variety of fresh challenges will surface for global traders in January and beyond
Global Supply Chain Pricing May Face New Pressures in 2019
The global economy started 2018 with strong, synchronized growth, but the momentum faded as the year...

IHS Markit’s New Economic “Predictions” for 2019 and Impact on Global Supply Chains
The U.S. will remain “above trend,” while other key economies will experience further...
Global Kuehne + Nagel Indicators Signal Global Supply Chain Resilience
So far this year, international merchandise trade has risen by 10.6%. Emerging markets and North...