What is Agile Manufacturing? - Definition & Case Studies

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  • 0:00 The Assembly Line
  • 0:36 Total Quality Control
  • 1:01 Lean Manufacturing
  • 2:08 Agile Manufacturing
  • 4:00 Case Study
  • 5:32 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Shawn Ferguson

Shawn is a recent graduate from Walsh College's MBA program in Michigan. He is currently an instructor at his current company and previously was a substitute teacher.

This lesson will discuss agile manufacturing. Beyond lean manufacturing, agile manufacturing is a newer strategy that allows a company to be extremely flexible toward customers' needs and demands.

The Assembly Line

At the beginning of the 20th century, manufacturing was done as a process where individuals would make a product from beginning to end. Henry Ford changed this one person, one product strategy to an assembly line. Henry Ford developed the strategy of moving the unfinished product down a line while multiple workers would perform different operations on the product. For example, one worker would create the frame of the car, the next worker would install the engine and transmission, the next would work on the suspension, and so on down the line.

Total Quality Control

The assembly line stayed the mainstay of the manufacturing world until a man named W. Edward Deming brought total quality management to the United States. Total quality control is the idea that including quality into a product will not raise costs but lower them. A higher quality product will cost less to maintain and create than a cheap product that is constantly needing to be reworked even before the product hits the shelves.

Lean Manufacturing

Lean manufacturing was the next strategy introduced to the manufacturing world. Lean manufacturing is the idea that waste should be eliminated from products in order to gain an advantage over competition. Tools, raw materials, material handling, and people are organized to get their tasks completed sooner. Basically, lean manufacturing is an organizational strategy to organize inputs to a specific job. An example of lean manufacturing could be that Ford creates a car in 10 days from start to finish but your company can create the same quality of automobile in 8 days. You complete your vehicle two days sooner because you are better organized with your resources. You have the ability to create your vehicle faster while allocating less costs to your 8-day production run compared to Ford's 10-day production run. With lean manufacturing, workstations and process ergonomics are a necessity. Imagine a worker always having to search for the right tools and required pieces to complete a process. This constant searching would be a waste of time and the opposite of lean manufacturing.

Agile Manufacturing

Agile manufacturing is the newest strategy that is being used by small lot manufacturers. People are continuously getting things the way that they want them. Almost every product, good, or service is custom in some way. This puts an enormous strain on manufacturers to create products that people want to buy. Customers are demanding more and more of their suppliers and the suppliers who use agile manufacturing will outperform and outsell their competition. Agility will only work for manufacturers if their products already have quality built into their designs. A company that skimps on quality and tries to implement an agile strategy is asking for trouble. A manufacturer should also have lean manufacturing principles in place before trying an agile strategy. The manufacturer wants to cut out any unnecessary steps and processes before becoming agile.

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