Making Agile Manufacturing Work

posted on: Thursday November 5, 2015

Continuous improvement for personalized, fast delivery with agile manufacturing.

uspo Load MoverWhen a manufacturer implements lean practices, he doesn’t just transform a process to reduce waste. He sets up a means for continuous improvement. By analyzing both how well production succeeds under lean and also other continuous improvement practices, companies can find the exact Standard Operating Procedures “SOP” that works for them. One methodology that branches off of the lean concept is agile manufacturing.

If a lean process results in manufacturing in small batches, one-piece flow, and fast changeovers, this will pave the way to agile manufacturing. This would be an appropriate option for companies who:

  • Have a potential market for a personalized, fast-delivery version of a current product
  • Can develop a new product within the company’s sphere of competence that would strongly benefit from personalization and fast delivery

Personalization and fast delivery are expectations many consumers have when they order products. Agile manufacturing supports a company’s ability to deliver this. It relies on four key elements:

  1. Modular Product Design. Products are designed in a modular fashion so they may serve as platforms for fast and easy variation.
  2. Information Technology. Agile requires lightening-fast responses to orders, necessitating the automation or rapid dissemination of information throughout a company.
  3. Corporate Partners. To improve time-to-market for selected product segments, you need virtual, short-term alliances with other companies.
  4. Knowledge Culture. All employees should be properly trained for a culture that supports rapid change and ongoing adaptation.

Being an agile company provides the ability to take advantage of short windows of opportunity. Speed and agility become the competitive advantage as it strongly focuses on rapid response to the consumer. It is particularly valuable to manufacturers in the United States where we have large, well-developed local markets and high labor costs. Offshore manufacturers really can’t match the speed and personalization of this process.

Agile manufacturing isn’t just about having the right information and materials at the ready. It requires all employees to use lean measures to solve problems and complete production quickly.

The kinds of tools used in agile manufacturing overlap with those used in other lean initiatives, like the electric powered tugger. Power tugs increase the productivity potential of every employee on the floor. They can be made available at several stations to quickly and easily connect to a cart for transport. They also allow one person – without extensive training – to haul multiple loads at once. For information on how a power tug would support your continuous improvement, contact Load Mover, Inc. at 952-767-1720 or