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Pace of manufacturing on the rise

The pace of manufacturing is dramatically on the rise, although profitability and sales are not necessarily following suit. Fast paced world events, the internet age of instant gratification and the digital global village that makes virtual neighbors of a handful of individuals on opposite sides of the globe mean that companies are having to scramble more than ever just to keep up. Customers are demanding ever shrinking lead times while economic pressures put the squeeze on cash flow.

Pulling ahead

Manufacturers that are able to respond to these challenges are pulling ahead of their slower competitors. Companies such as GE, Bechtel and Motorola have proved the effectiveness of Six Sigma programs that aim to measure everything as data, analyze it and improve it, in a continually repeating process. Seen in the past as profit raising programs these methods of business improvement are become vital to survival as the global economy heads for rocky shores.

Eliminating Waste and Being Agile

Elimination of waste, such as advanced by lean manufacturing and similar processes, not only reduce costs but give companies an agility that is becoming vital. While some see inventory as vital to serve customers, a sudden change in the economic or political environment that renders inventory unsalable will favour those manufacturers that have moved to rapid reaction systems such as lean manufacturing that virtually eliminate inventory. These companies are already seeing the advantages of being able to switch directions within weeks, not years, when market conditions demand. No longer a luxury or profit builder, such ability is becoming essential to carry on business in an increasingly uncertain world.

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