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Evolving from Lean to Agile Manufacturing

Mark Hermans, |

For years implementing lean operations was the main focus for most manufacturers. But in today’s market environment lean doesn’t necessarily mean agile. It is no longer enough to simply be lean in order to create or maintain a competitive advantage. While lean manufacturing has enabled many organizations to cut costs, it doesn’t always center around what the customer really wants.

Agile manufacturing takes lean to the next level by focusing on processes and systems that enable organizations to respond quickly to customer needs and market changes while still controlling costs and quality. Agile manufacturing is really the next step in the evolution of production methodology. It broadens the scope from production on the factory floor to touching every unit of an enterprise.

But how do you get from lean to agile? It’s primarily about a shift in focus based on advanced technology. While lean manufacturing emphasizes the efficient use of resources, agile manufacturing focuses on improving processes through continuous change. This means demand forecasting and production schedules need to be able to adjust quickly and effectively.

Much of the shift to agile manufacturing has been driven by the digital transformation of businesses based on new technologies that enable the optimization of processes, improve visibility across the entire organization and build the foundation for continuous growth. At the core of these technologies are advanced, integrated ERP solutions connecting the entire business. Implementing the right technology framework will allow manufacturers to:

1. Gain visibility across the entire business
Increased visibility into operations – from production and warehouse to sales and customer service – combined with consolidated, real-time data offers actionable insight that enables faster, better business decisions. 

2. Optimize processes and workflows
The right ERP solution can unify processes and workflows eliminating disparate siloes. A more integrated product development process is supported by improved communication and scheduling allowing tasks to be completed faster and more accurately.

3. Drive enhanced customer interaction
A complete view of the customer into purchasing history, sales order processes, and inventory levels enables better communication to enhance customer satisfaction. A well-integrated ERP solution can help identify upsell and cross-sell opportunities that contribute directly to the bottom line.

Transitioning from lean to agile manufacturing is not a one-time project – it’s a continuous process that can only succeed if it is based on a technology framework that allows organizations to make incremental adjustments without causing major disruptions. Manufacturers who are able to embrace and implement these continuous changes will be better positioned to respond to market demands and ensure they have the right products in the right place at the right time.

Find out how your organization can transform to a more agile business with manufacturing solutions from Eclipse.