This week, the 2013 IAAF World Championships in athletics is held in Moscow, Russia. If plant managers watch carefully, they might pick up a few ideas for improving their factories. A specific concept that comes to mind is the notion of Factory Fitness – proposed by Kasra Ferdows (Georgetown University) and Fritz Thurnheer (Hydro ASA) in 2011. The key take away is the following: Whereas becoming lean is right for many, becoming fit is right for all. How to become world champion depends on the event.
Yesterday, my colleague Daryl Powell successfully defended his PhD thesis titled “Investigating ERP Support for Lean Production” at the Department of Production and Quality Engineering at NTNU, Trondheim, Norway. Over the last three years, Powell’s research has received much interest from the international Operations Management research community and from industrial companies struggling with the mismatch between lean production and ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning systems). Is lean production and ERP solutions for pull production mutually exclusive?
In a recent article, The Economist explains how the electronic giant Honeywell International transformed “from bitter to sweet” over the last eight years following an XPS strategy. In my research I search for evidence for how and why corporate production systems (XPS) succeed and/or fail. The Honeywell article paints a picture of how the Honeywell Operating System (HOS) literally saved the company from bankruptcy and turned it into a multi-billion profit machine. Although the evidence is anecdotal, the managers interviewed in the article provide convincing statements of XPS success:
Lean has become the most popular production paradigm in the 21st century. While some giant companies boldly claim to have reached the “Lean nirvana”, many smaller companies have a much tougher road to the goal. Small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) often lack the competence, the resources, and the stability to sufficiently set out on the lean journey. On the other hand, because of their size, SMEs might be much quicker to shift perspectives and march together in new directions. The challenge is to succeed in doing so. Here follows a promising roadmap for SMEs that want to become lean.
High-tech products are foreseen to build the future competitiveness of the Western economies’ manufacturing sectors. However – what probably will become the most important manufacturing paradigm for the Western economies – lacks proper theoretical concepts and frameworks for industrialisation. Lean & co are simply not suitable enough for high-tech, customized, knowledge-intensive and lower-volume production. In order to remain competitive there has been a need to develop new production concepts with belonging methods, systems and tools for modern high-tech and mass-customised production systems. A good thing then that someone has made an effort to close this gap…