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Paul T Kidd's Agility Pages

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Agility in the Context of Next Generation Manufacturing

Agility in the Context of Next Generation Manufacturing

Paul T. Kidd, Ph.D.
Cheshire Henbury

The Iacocca Institute report 21st Century Manufacturing Enterprise Strategy introduced the term agility in an effort to define a new paradigm which the authors called agile manufacturing. The Iacocca Institute report attempted to look beyond current best practice towards the enterprise of the future. Unfortunately it became apparent very quickly that the report had failed to make a clear distinction between the changes taking place in 1991 in manufacturing industries, and issues relevant to a longer term focus on developing a new and radically different manufacturing paradigm. The net result was great confusion, which still continues to this day, with agility being used as a catch-all-phrase to describe all the various changes and ideas being promoted such as lean production, business process re-engineering, time compression and so on.

Recent publications such as the US Agility Forum's Next Generation Manufacturing Project reports have attempted to define Next Generation Manufacturing. These reports, in common with the UK's Technology Foresight report Manufacturing, Production and Business Processes, aimed to look forward fifteen to twenty years, examining drivers and future needs and likely developments. However, both the US and the UK reports tend to focus on near term issues within the five year time frame, often describing developments and ideas that companies are already implementing.

Clearly looking out over a longer time frame of fifteen to twenty years is a challenging task. It is however one that is becoming increasingly important.

The presentation will address the issues of Next Generation Manufacturing, and within this context, provide a definition of agility that is focused and relevant to future industrial problems - that is, those that industry has yet to fully understand and address.

The presentation will deal with and expand upon issues that were researched for the Financial Times in London. This research was undertaken in the second half of 1996 and published by Financial Times Automotive Publishing as detailed management report in early 1997. This unique report deals with the creation of a globally distributed new product development capability focused on developing global products tailored to diverse local markets. The report also deals with longer term issues - the Next Generation Automotive Enterprise - examining concepts such as mass customization of total solutions and agile new product development practices.

The presentation will therefore:

1. describe the strategic drivers for Next Generation Manufacturing;

2. discuss the Next Generation Automotive Enterprise;

3. define agility as a component part of the Next Generation Manufacturing Enterprise;

4. illustrate the concept of agility with reference to future requirements and capabilities within the new product development process.


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