Flexible Manufacturing to Address the Challenges of Market Volatility

Flexible Manufacturing to Address the Challenges of Market Volatility

In the last two years, we have observed a significant shift in manufacturing. While automation was originally designed for throughput and repetition in stable conditions, suddenly more flexible approaches were in need. This was due to demand changes, but also to compensate for problems in supply chains; for example, when specific parts are no longer available.

We are in line with our partner World Economic Forum, who says that manufacturers need to invest more in adjusting and adapting their automation strategies to the new market conditions. On their platform for shaping the future of advanced manufacturing and value chains, they make the point that manufacturers who embrace flexible automation can create options for changing market conditions by:

#1: Marrying the productivity benefits of traditional “spot” automation with human skills.

#2: Accomodating different assembly tasks, which can then be changed on the fly.

#3: Modularizing assembly lines, allowing to build multiple units on the same production line, without swapping equipment.

At Kaizen Institute, we support this type of flexible thinking, which can look different for every industry. It provides a competitive edge by helping businesses adapt to shifting demands and an unpredictable macro environment.

The KAIZEN™ way of adapting practices to compensate for market volatility is incorporated in the shojinka model, as an example. Shojinka is a Japanese word meaning flexible production. It refers to an agile production model which can be adapted in response to demand fluctuations. The agility comes from the quick reallocation of resources considering the volume and type of demand, ensuring high levels of productivity and quality.

A rather handy side-effect of this approach: Shojinka puts an even stronger focus on the culture of an organisation, as this plays a pivotal role in the motivation of employees to become more flexible. The process starts with mapping the skills of each individual and planning the necessary training to avoid any skills gaps – accompanied by simple, visual work standards.

In addition to investments in technology, flexibility in production implies having Lean and agile teams and easy-to-adapt workplace infrastructures. The implementation of the shojinka principle maintains high efficiency in manufacturing, regardless of demand fluctuations.

To read the full article posted at World Economic Forum, click here.

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