Some time ago I was given a tour of a building controls factory in the Chicago area. As you walked on to the production floor there was a monitor with the status of each production cell displayed. Of course, this information was provided by the MRP system. Tying this type of information to external market data and making it available to the whole value chain can, as the article points out, make the whole enterprise more efficient. It also helps management plan better. This is definately an aspect of making US manufacturing more efficient, but more imortantly, more responsive.
Naperlou, in general I agree with all of your statements. In the back of my mind though, I see echos of Robert McNamara applying similar methods to the soldiers in Vietnam, turning lives (and deaths) into numbers and efficiency factors.
While I agree in general with what is presented, I have seen "systems" create problems as well, especially when the system is trusted over all other (human, from the manufacturing floor) input.
An example that I observed several years ago was a plant that manufactures a catalog of small, relatively inexpensive widgets. They make a small number of high volume widgets, and quite a number of others in various quantities, down to perhaps 12 dozen per year of certain models.
The plant went through the typical process of just-in-time, lean manufacturing, and computer driven workflow, etc. A big emphasis was put on reducing changeover times for equipment, and making it quicker to produce parts in small lots. Once this capability was achieved, the workflow system started injecting small lots into the production schedules in any way that made sense to it (the computer).
Because of the nature of the manufacturing process for the widgets in question, some quantity of parts are lost to machine setups, and destructive testing requirements. So, every time a particular model needs to be manufactured, regardless of lot size, there will be some loss to the setup and testing processes. The workflow system didn't seem to take these factors into consideration.
The end result was that instead of scheduling and manufacturing some profitable number of pieces, the system would kick out orders of perhaps 12 pieces or less of a product that would sell at a rate of 12 per month, year after year.
The common sense approach would be to produce 12 months worth of the parts, which may produce 4 or 5 scrap parts, instead of producing 12 per month, every month, and producing the same 4 or 5 (sometimes more) scrap parts each month.
The end result was that the company focused on their high volume parts and sent all of the "losers" to Mexico. I would contend that most of the losers would be winners if they used some common sense in scheduling, instead of completely trusting the computerized system.
" value-add services" " Insight is critical" "glean better data from multiple touch points"
"highest possible level of visibility and intelligence"
"a key reason for that shifting dynamic" " the agility needed to maintain a competitive edge" "operations that leverage technology to its fullest"
I challange you to re-write that article in English. Once you remove all the Dilbert-style management buzzwords theres not a lot of information left. It's little more than "collect data, and use it to make your production line more efficient".
I think the editors of DN should have required the author to clean in up a bit, too.
Fifty-six-year-old Pasquale Russo has been doing metalwork for more than 30 years in a tiny southern Italy village. Many craftsmen like him brought with them fabrication skills when they came from the Old World to America.
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