The changing nature of operations flexibility

Nigel Slack (Warwick Business School, Warwick University, Coventry, UK)

International Journal of Operations & Production Management

ISSN: 0144-3577

Publication date: 1 December 2005



This short paper seeks to explain why the original paper “The flexibility of manufacturing systems” was written (1987), and attempts to examine at least some of the flexibility literature that has followed.


The approach is a review and observations about the 1987 work.


The original paper treated flexibility in an exclusively manufacturing context. Even in the mid‐1980s one could argue that this was a mistake. If flexibility is an important concept in operations management, it should be explored in all types of operation, not just in manufacturing. Now, more than 80 per cent of economic activity and employment occurs in non‐manufacturing enterprises. Flexibility is no different from most other topics in operations in that it is unreasonably skewed towards the manufacturing sector, it would nevertheless benefit from more empirical and conceptual work in the context of service operations.


Provides a useful update on an author's findings from two decades ago.



Slack, N. (2005), "The changing nature of operations flexibility", International Journal of Operations & Production Management, Vol. 25 No. 12, pp. 1201-1210.

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Copyright © 2005, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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