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How to Design a Flexible Factory
Read more to find out what it takes to build a flexible manufacturing facility that can give you a strong competitive advantage over your competitors.
Thanks to the coronavirus pandemic, raw material shortages have torn through global supply chains – and it remains difficult to find enough highly skilled workers for today's high-tech manufacturing facilities.
Given these challenges, manufacturing executives keep asking, "how can we make our factory is more flexible?"
Let's take a moment to expand a bit on what managers might hope to achieve by creating flexible factories.
Here are some of the top reasons:
A flexible production system can help companies introduce highly differentiated products before their competitors do. Flexible manufacturing can also help create a wider product range to keep customers "within the family" and in and out of the hands of the competition.
Flexible factories can respond quickly to rapid changes in customer demand by either increasing or decreasing the rate of production.
Factories that can start and stop production quickly can avoid relying solely on long production runs – reducing inventory buildup and high capital carrying costs.
In an ideal world, flexible factories can continue producing goods despite supply chain disruptions and production shutdowns, either by switching to alternative raw materials or parts or by quickly switching to the production of other products.
Manufacturing custom products to meet the unique needs of customers can be profitable if done efficiently at scale – without disrupting other production requirements. Serving long-tail markets with niche products can also be very profitable if the manufacturing facility can handle short production runs efficiently.
Flexible factories can support sales campaigns that "juice" up demand for long-established products, for example, by producing limited edition production runs, often featuring unique colors or materials.
Flexible factories can also produce differentiated products sold at different price points to address luxury and/or mass markets; geographical markets with unique requirements (such as RHD vehicles); or specific sales channels (such as wholesale, direct, retail, or e-commerce).
Requirement 1: Determine Your Flexible Manufacturing Goals
Now comes one of the hardest steps in pursuing a flexible manufacturing philosophy – identifying your key goals/justifications for creating a flexible factory – as well as how you plan to measure whether the program is ultimately successful or not.