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Manufacturing flexibility and variability: an overview

Sami Kara (Lecturer in the Department of Industrial Technology and Management, School of Mechanical and Manufacturing Engineering, University of New South Wales, Sydney, Australia)
Berman Kayis (Senior Lecturer, in the Department of Industrial Technology and Management, School of Mechanical and Manufacturing Engineering, University of New South Wales, Sydney, Australia)

Journal of Manufacturing Technology Management

ISSN: 1741-038X

Publication date: 1 September 2004

Abstract

Flexibility has become one of the most useful and necessary weapons in many of today's competitive markets. For companies in situations considering investments in flexibility, it is necessary to assess carefully exactly what flexibility could benefit the company's operations, and how this flexibility can be achieved. Different manufacturing situations are associated with different levels of uncertainty and variations, and therefore call for different sorts of flexibility. Although flexibility has been argued to be available (to a certain point) without major investments in technology, it can be assumed that flexibility is most likely to come at a price. A company should therefore spend considerable effort on identifying what flexibility would be of benefit to the organisation to enhance their performance, and thereafter assess how to achieve it. This paper provides a comprehensive analysis of variability and uncertainty, and therefore, the need for flexibility within an organisation by examining market and manufacturing process related factors. Each factor is further examined to find out relevant flexibilities and corresponding methods, tools, and techniques to be used by suggesting proposed manufacturing approaches to organisations. The human factor is suggested as an essential flexibility component as well as a key contributor for selecting, developing, improving and implementing flexibilities in order to succeed in markets that are accelerating and becoming more turbulent.

Keywords

Citation

Kara, S. and Kayis, B. (2004), "Manufacturing flexibility and variability: an overview", Journal of Manufacturing Technology Management, Vol. 15 No. 6, pp. 466-478. https://doi.org/10.1108/17410380410547870

Publisher

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Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2004, Emerald Group Publishing Limited