Businesses are witnessing unprecedented changes today. New products, new processes, new technologies, new markets, and even new competitors are appearing and disappearing within short periods of time. Historically, mass production has evolved into lean production. Now lean production is evolving into agile manufacturing. Until the 1950s companies focused on productivity improvement and in the 60s and 70s they concentrated on quality enhancement. In the eighties, while companies worked hard to achieve flexibility, in the 90s they are challenged by the need to increase agility. To review current issues in agility, this article describes the market forces that demand agility, the elements that constitute agility, agility enablers, and agility implementation.
The National Science Foundation (NSF) and the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) have jointly established the Agile Manufacturing Research Institutes (AMRI) at three US Universities. The purpose of the AMRIs is to enhance the understanding of agile manufacturing enterprises, develop system performance measures based on quantitative data, structure a program of research to meet industry-defined needs, and move emerging agile technologies into the next stage where functional prototyping or proof-of-concepts test can take place (DeVor et al., 1997). Agile manufacturing practices in the following companies are included in this article: AT & T; Bally Engineered Structures; Chrysler; Ford; GE Fanuc; GM; Honeywell; John Deere; Mars Company; Matsushita; Panasonic; USCAR.
KeywordsSmart Card Mass Customization Lean Production Communication Connectedness Agile Manufacturing
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