August 16 2020 at 11:29AM
Agile in the Manufacturing Sector
This article will briefly explain how the concepts of Agile can be applied in the Manufacturing sector.
It is ironic that the idea of Agile began in the manufacturing sector in the early 90s, but it started developing and taking shape in the IT industry. While manufacturers focused on process efficiency, software developers picked up the ball on Agile and ran with it ultimately showing us how Agile can be integrated on a systematic basis.
While Agile became a movement in the IT industry, manufacturing firms remained preoccupied with efficiency, cost-cutting and maximizing shareholder value. Some firms adopted Lean principles which aimed at eliminating wastes and Six Sigma which focused on eliminating variance. Although these processes do bear certain resemblances to Agile, they never really reaped the benefits of Agile in terms of adapting to change and adding value for customers.
Like most industries, the manufacturing industry is growing leaps and bounds, but not without its set of challenges. It undergoes rapid changes owing to a competitive global market, massive tech disruption and higher customer expectations for speedy delivery of quality products.
Applying Agile in Manufacturing
Agile manufacturing is a term that is used for organizations that create the tools, methodologies and processes to become more adaptive to customer and market needs while simultaneously keep a check on costs, time and quality.
There are two key reasons why organizations should be thinking on the lines of Agile Manufacturing:
- Technology: The world is seeing rapid technological development every year. For example, the automobile industry has witnessed advancements in alternative propulsion technology, 3D printing, autonomous vehicles (also known as self-driving technologies), robotics, artificial intelligence and nanotechnology that have urged vehicle manufacturers to up the ante in their research and production methods. It is in view of this challenge that the term “Operational Agility” has gained traction. For companies to remain relevant in their field of businesses, it needs to be adaptable to such unforeseen technological advancements. The winners in this rapidly changing world of manufacturing will be those players who have the ability to show the agility required to generate continuous customer-based innovation.
- Market Volatility: Not just securing their core business values, companies must be wary of the dynamic and fluctuating market conditions such as product demand, labor costs and supply chain uncertainties because they can render companies bankrupt.
The shift to Agile is not simply adopting one or two management tactics. It involves a radically different type of management with a different goal (pleasing the customer), a different role for managers (enabling self-organizing teams), a different way of coordinating work (dynamic linking), different values (continuous improvement and radical transparency) and different communications (horizontal conversations). Manufacturing companies need a systemic change to completely integrate Agile and harness its true potential. When practices and values of Scrum and Agile are applied to manufacturing, the results can be spectacular.