Achieving flexible manufacturing competence

Qingyu Zhang (Department of Computer and Information Technology, Arkansas State University, State University, Arkansas, USA)
Mark A. Vonderembse (Department of Management, The University of Toledo, Toledo, Ohio, USA)
Mei Cao (Department of Computer and Information Technology, Arkansas State University, State University, Arkansas, USA)

International Journal of Operations & Production Management

ISSN: 0144-3577

Publication date: 1 June 2006



To respond to increasing environmental uncertainty, manufacturers are enhancing flexible manufacturing competence (FMC) as a source of competitive advantage. This study aims to extend research on FMC to its antecedent variables by investigating the impacts of advanced manufacturing technology and operations improvement practices (OIP) on FMC.


Using survey data from 273 manufacturing firms, this research tests additive, mediating, and moderating models that relate these variables.


Among three alternative models, the moderating model is best supported. The results indicate that advanced manufacturing technology has a stronger positive impact on FMC when OIP are effectively implemented than when they are not.

Research limitations/implications

The research focuses attention on the antecedent variables to production competence, rather than on the concept and positive performance effect of production competence.

Practical implications

For managers, the issue is not simply purchasing automation but developing OIP to effectively use advanced manufacturing technologies, thereby achieving the magnifying effects of human capital on FMC.


This paper investigates FMC and its antecedent variables by testing three alternative models, and it offers assistance to managers who are implementing advanced manufacturing technologies and OIP.



Zhang, Q., Vonderembse, M. and Cao, M. (2006), "Achieving flexible manufacturing competence", International Journal of Operations & Production Management, Vol. 26 No. 6, pp. 580-599.

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Copyright © 2006, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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