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Article
Publication date: 1 April 1987

Nigel Slack

Many of the new pressures from today's manufacturing environment are turning manufacturing managers' attention to the virtues of developing a flexible manufacturing

Abstract

Many of the new pressures from today's manufacturing environment are turning manufacturing managers' attention to the virtues of developing a flexible manufacturing function. Flexibility, however, has different meanings for different managers and several perfectly legitimate alternative paths exist towards flexible manufacturing. How managers in ten companies view manufacturing flexibility in terms of how they see the contribution of manufacturing flexibility to overall company performance; what types of flexibility they regard as important; and what their desired degree of flexibility is. The results of the investigations in these ten companies are summarised in the form of ten empirical “observations”. Based on these “observations” a check‐list of prescriptions is presented and a hierarchical framework developed into which the various issues raised by the “observations” can be incorporated.

Details

International Journal of Operations & Production Management, vol. 7 no. 4
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 0144-3577

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Article
Publication date: 1 September 1998

Ravi Kathuria

This paper investigates managerial practices that are conducive to the management of flexibility. Using data from manufacturing plants in the USA, this paper identifies…

Abstract

This paper investigates managerial practices that are conducive to the management of flexibility. Using data from manufacturing plants in the USA, this paper identifies managerial practices that manufacturing managers strongly demonstrate in plants that place a high emphasis on flexibility. The results indicate that managers who pursue flexibility, emphatically engage in team building, employee empowerment, and other relationship oriented practices that generate enthusiasm among employees. These practices seemingly motivate workers to deal with the uncertainty and changes, in the form of product mix, customer delivery schedule, capacity adjustments, etc., that characterize manufacturing flexibility. Furthermore, workers are entrusted with the traditional responsibilities of manufacturing managers, such as monitoring and problem solving.

Details

Industrial Management & Data Systems, vol. 98 no. 6
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 0263-5577

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Article
Publication date: 16 February 2021

José Pinheiro, Luis Filipe Lages, Graça Miranda Silva, Alvaro Lopes Dias and Miguel T. Preto

Shifting demand and ever-shorter production cycles pressure manufacturing flexibility. Although the literature has established the positive effect of the firm's absorptive…

Abstract

Purpose

Shifting demand and ever-shorter production cycles pressure manufacturing flexibility. Although the literature has established the positive effect of the firm's absorptive capacity on manufacturing flexibility, the separate role of the innovation competencies of exploitation and exploration in such a relationship is still under-investigated. In this study, the authors examine how these competencies affect manufacturing flexibility.

Design/methodology/approach

The authors use survey data from 370 manufacturing firms and analyze them using covariance-based structural equation modeling (CB–SEM).

Findings

The results indicate that absorptive capacity has a strong, positive and direct effect on exploitative and exploratory innovation competencies, proactive and responsive market orientations, and manufacturing flexibility. The authors’ findings also demonstrate that the exploitative innovation competencies mediate the relation between responsive market orientation and manufacturing flexibility. Essentially, these exploitative innovation competencies produce a direct positive effect on manufacturing flexibility while simultaneously being a vehicle for absorptive capacity's indirect effects on it. An exploration innovation strategy does not significantly affect manufacturing flexibility.

Originality/value

This study contributes by combining key strategic features of firms with manufacturing flexibility, while providing new empirical evidence of the mediation of the exploitative innovation competencies in the relation between responsive market orientation and manufacturing flexibility.

Details

International Journal of Productivity and Performance Management, vol. ahead-of-print no. ahead-of-print
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 1741-0401

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Article
Publication date: 28 August 2020

Ruchi Mishra

The study aims to assess and prioritise the enablers of manufacturing flexibility by evaluating the degree of environmental uncertainty and manufacturing flexibility in an…

Abstract

Purpose

The study aims to assess and prioritise the enablers of manufacturing flexibility by evaluating the degree of environmental uncertainty and manufacturing flexibility in an uncertain environment.

Design/methodology/approach

The study proposes a methodological approach based on fuzzy quality function deployment (FQFD), fuzzy analytical hierarchical process (FAHP) and fuzzy technique for order of preference by similarity to ideal solution (FTOPSIS) to assess and prioritise enablers of manufacturing flexibility in an uncertain environment.

Findings

The study proposes a methodological approach that can facilitate firms to concentrate on preferred enablers and assist them in formulating a strategy to develop manufacturing flexibility. The empirical case study analysis of an Indian auto-air conditioning manufacturing firm was done to illustrate the effectiveness, flexibility and feasibility of the proposed approach.

Research limitations/implications

The proposed approach is limited to manufacturing flexibility. This study does not consider inter-dependencies among environmental uncertainties.

Practical implications

The proposed methodological approach can assist practitioners in the identification and development of the preferred enablers to improve manufacturing flexibility. Thus, practitioners can invest strategically in the right resources to improve manufacturing flexibility.

Originality/value

The study proposes and validates a methodological approach that simultaneously addresses drivers and enablers of manufacturing flexibility; therefore, it aims to fill the gaps of earlier studies that have majorly studied flexibility concept in an isolated way.

Details

International Journal of Quality & Reliability Management, vol. 38 no. 4
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 0265-671X

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Article
Publication date: 28 May 2020

José Pinheiro, Graça Miranda Silva, Álvaro Lopes Dias, Luis Filipe Lages and Miguel Torres Preto

The purpose of this study is to examine the mediating role of manufacturing flexibility in the relationship between knowledge creation, technological turbulence and…

Abstract

Purpose

The purpose of this study is to examine the mediating role of manufacturing flexibility in the relationship between knowledge creation, technological turbulence and performance. In an increasingly competitive and changing environment, firms need to boost their technological and management know-how to adequately develop manufacturing flexibility.

Design/methodology/approach

This study analyzes survey data collected from 370 manufacturing firms. Validity and reliability analyses were conducted using SPSS and Amos. The research hypotheses were tested using covariance-based structural equation modelling.

Findings

The main findings show that knowledge creation positively and significantly affects business and operational performances directly, and indirectly, through manufacturing flexibility. Moreover, technological turbulence has a positive and significant effect on it. This finding contributes to understanding why some firms get better outcomes from manufacturing flexibility than others, a disputed issue in the literature.

Practical implications

This study highlights the need for manufacturing firms to foster cultures of knowledge creation, to better educate and train employees and to develop other instruments of knowledge creation.

Originality/value

This study makes several contributions to manufacturing flexibility literature: (1) establishing a link between technological turbulence and knowledge creation to develop manufacturing flexibility; (2) add empirical evidence on the relation between manufacturing flexibility and performance and (3) contributes to consolidating the mediation role of manufacturing flexibility in the relations between knowledge creation and business performance, as studies focussing on such a role are scarce in the literature.

Details

Business Process Management Journal, vol. 26 no. 7
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 1463-7154

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Article
Publication date: 6 June 2016

Ruchi Mishra

The purpose of this paper is to analyse and compare the status of manufacturing flexibility adoption, its barriers and adoption practices in small and medium-sized…

Abstract

Purpose

The purpose of this paper is to analyse and compare the status of manufacturing flexibility adoption, its barriers and adoption practices in small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) and large firms in India.

Design/methodology/approach

Using mixed methods sequential explanatory design, this study employs survey responses from 121 firms, followed by 16 semi-structured interviews to investigate and explain the status of manufacturing flexibility adoption, barriers to adoption and practices adopted to achieve flexibility in SMEs and large firms in India.

Findings

The study suggests that awareness of manufacturing flexibility concept in SMEs is considerably low and application of manufacturing flexibility is still at embryonic stage. It was found that both SMEs and large firms employ manufacturing flexibility, but they differ with respect to their emphasis on adoption practices used to achieve flexibility. SMEs emphasize entrepreneurial orientation and flexible human resource practices to achieve flexibility, whereas large firms emphasize practices such as technological capability, sourcing practices and integration practices to achieve flexibility. The study also illustrates barriers that hinder manufacturing flexibility adoption at plant level in India.

Research limitations/implications

The study is cross-sectional in nature and is limited to specific regions of India. The use of subjective measures in survey questionnaire is another limitation of the study.

Practical implications

Practitioners should consider combinations of adoption practices to achieve the desired level of manufacturing flexibility. It is also important to give due consideration to barriers before considering manufacturing flexibility adoption.

Originality/value

The findings contribute to the manufacturing flexibility and SMEs research by providing insights into manufacturing flexibility adoption from the developing economy perspective and by widening the scope of existing research into SMEs.

Details

Journal of Manufacturing Technology Management, vol. 27 no. 5
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 1741-038X

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Article
Publication date: 1 August 2002

Alberto Petroni and Maurizio Bevilacqua

Most of previous research on manufacturing flexibility has been conceptual by nature and finalized to build analytical models and only a small percentage of the studies…

Abstract

Most of previous research on manufacturing flexibility has been conceptual by nature and finalized to build analytical models and only a small percentage of the studies have focused on empirical observations of actual industrial practice. In this study, we applied a DEA‐based methodology to identify small and medium‐sized enterprises (SMEs) that operate on the frontier of manufacturing flexibility practice. Data were obtained via a questionnaire survey that considered seven basic dimensions of manufacturing flexibility. Subsequently, discriminant analysis was carried out to delineate which contextual factors and managerial aspects characterize the firms that have reached the “best practice” status. Finally, on‐site investigation was carried out with the “excellent” firms to better delineate their organizational and strategic profile.

Details

International Journal of Operations & Production Management, vol. 22 no. 8
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 0144-3577

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Article
Publication date: 1 October 2005

Berman Kayis and Sami Kara

This paper seeks to present the formulation of relationships involving different manufacturing flexibility elements related to the total chain of acquisition, processing…

Abstract

Purpose

This paper seeks to present the formulation of relationships involving different manufacturing flexibility elements related to the total chain of acquisition, processing and distribution in order to assess the level of flexibility practiced by Australian manufacturing industries.

Design/methodology/approach

A range of published works and a detailed data gathered from a wide range of Australian manufacturing industry through questionnaires are evaluated to determine how customer‐supplier relationships could have an impact on manufacturing flexibility and enhance the total chain of manufacturing. The main analysis tool used is logistic regression. The knowledge and analysis obtained are linked to evaluate the level of each type of flexibility as well as the impact of customer‐supplier flexibility on the total chain of manufacturing. Finally, a performance assessment framework is developed to connect the interlinking factors and contribution regarding customer, supplier, and manufacturing flexibility of Australian industries.

Findings

The relationships and correlation of data displayed would enhance the available body of knowledge on the total chain of manufacturing. Consequently, the relationships found in this paper can be used to support the overall flexibility assessment of manufacturing industries. In the paper, the current flexibility practices of Australian industries are assessed and a framework is suggested based on several elements taken into consideration. As the different elements under flexibility have suggested, the manufacturing flexibility of Australian industries as affected by customer‐supplier participation is found as medium. Suggestions for pursuing improvements are recommended.

Research limitations/implications

The main outcome of the research is to reveal that customer‐supplier relationship could significantly affect the flexibility level within the industries under different functional areas. As a result, to achieve the “real” flexibility of the system, flexibility has to be built into the total chain of acquisition‐processing‐distribution stages, not just focusing on the manufacturing aspects only. The flexibility framework developed in this paper would better assess the impact of customer‐supplier flexibility on the total chain of manufacturing and give more insights for analyzing the flexibility level of customers, suppliers, and manufacturers with data gathered across the globe.

Originality/value

The originality of the paper lies in its detailed analysis of the effect of supplier and customer contribution on manufacturing problems as well as developing a flexibility assessment framework to discuss its impact on the total chain of manufacturing. Its value to both body of knowledge and practitioners are emphasized in the paper.

Details

Journal of Manufacturing Technology Management, vol. 16 no. 7
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 1741-038X

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Article
Publication date: 6 February 2007

Jim Hutchison and Sidhartha R. Das

To examine and analyze the decision process that a firm undergoes for acquiring an advanced manufacturing system to obtain manufacturing flexibility for its operations.

Abstract

Purpose

To examine and analyze the decision process that a firm undergoes for acquiring an advanced manufacturing system to obtain manufacturing flexibility for its operations.

Design/methodology/approach

A case study approach is used to examine these decision processes. A conceptual contingency‐based framework from the literature is used to guide the analysis. The framework proposes that four exogenous variables – strategy, environmental factors, organizational attributes, and technology – guide a firm's decisions on choice and adoption of manufacturing flexibility, which has an effect on the firm's performance.

Findings

The analysis shows that these decisions are aligned with the various relationships in the framework. The framework therefore helps understand and explain the above decision processes. Further, the paper expands the concept of “fit” between the variables in the framework.

Research limitations/implications

Several research propositions are developed based on the findings of this study. The findings in this paper are limited to this case study only. The paper does not attempt to validate theory but applies it in the context of examining and analyzing a company's decisions.

Practical implications

The suggested relationships in the conceptual framework are found to be applicable in a business setting. Practitioners can use the conceptual framework to guide them in making decisions when acquiring advanced manufacturing systems to obtain manufacturing flexibility.

Originality/value

This case study captures richness and detail in the decision‐making processes of an individual firm that are missed by other types of research studies. It helps both academics and practitioners to gain a better understanding of these processes.

Details

International Journal of Operations & Production Management, vol. 27 no. 2
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 0144-3577

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Article
Publication date: 1 January 2002

Jan Olhager and B. Martin West

We use the methodology from quality function deployment (QFD) for linking manufacturing flexibility to market requirements. This approach creates a framework for modelling…

Abstract

We use the methodology from quality function deployment (QFD) for linking manufacturing flexibility to market requirements. This approach creates a framework for modelling the deployment of the need for flexibility from the customers’ viewpoints into manufacturing flexibility at various hierarchical levels. We present an application of the methodology in a real case study at a firm where a manufacturing system was being redesigned for the manufacture of a new and wider range of products than previously, based on a new product platform. Based on the case study we discuss the benefits and limitations of using the QFD approach to deploy manufacturing flexibility. The paper also presents a literature review of the manufacturing flexibility framework arena.

Details

International Journal of Operations & Production Management, vol. 22 no. 1
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 0144-3577

Keywords

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