The ability of production organizations to respond quickly to changes in the market with new products requires flexibility. The relationship between manufacturing flexibility and the performance of organizations in new product development is not well characterized. The purpose of this paper is to develop and test a flexibility model focused on new product performance in manufacturing organizations empirically in one industrial sector.
Hypothesized relationships between manufacturing flexibility, new product type, and new product performance are empirically tested using survey data from 273 companies, representing a range of US electronic manufacturers.
Factor and cluster analysis identifies eight distinct flexibility dimensions and a hierarchy among these dimensions. The relationships between the identified flexibility dimensions and new product performance, as tested through correlation analyses, are found to be dependent on the type of new product development.
Overall, this study highlights the complexity of the relationship between manufacturing flexibility and new product performance. This study is conducted in a specific sector, so the results cannot be generalized. More complex mathematical models, requiring a larger data set, would be helpful in further separating out direct and indirect effects of variables, such as new product type, on the relationship between flexibility and performance.
With multiple dimensions of flexibility, organizational leaders must choose the dimension(s) that is/are most appropriate to develop. This study helps provide insight into which dimensions of flexibility a particular plant should focus on, given a particular type of new product.
The study has made a significant contribution by identifying the dimensions of flexibility related to new product performance and in proposing a hierarchical structure for these dimensions. This study has also made a contribution by providing empirical support for the role of new product type as a moderator in the flexibility/performance relationship.
Larso, D., Doolen, T. and Hacker, M. (2009), "Development of a manufacturing flexibility hierarchy through factor and cluster analysis: The role of new product type on US electronic manufacturer performance", Journal of Manufacturing Technology Management, Vol. 20 No. 4, pp. 417-441. https://doi.org/10.1108/17410380910953702Download as .RIS
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