Manufacturing today is facing formidable challenges in the national and international marketplace caused in large part by rapidly changing technologies. Technological advances are requiring major reorganization of the manufacturing function including facility modernization, high levels of automation, and the ability to quickly implement new technologies. This influx of change has placed manufacturing into a major role in the overall corporate strategy. A corporate strategy of developing superior manufacturing capability is a major step towards enhancing the corporation's competitive position through increased productivity and quality. Unfortunately, large capital investment alone cannot immediately correct problems caused by years of neglect. Developing superior manufacturing requires a disciplined approach covering many years.
Most successful companies are formed initially around a unique or superior product design. This initial start has resulted in many companies, especially in the high-tech areas, considering design and marketing as the company's primary functions. Since the United States had superior manufacturing capabilities in the 1950s and 1960s, corporate management could systematically neglect manufacturing and still be successful. Manufacturing was treated as a service organization and considered in the negative terms of poor quality, low productivity, high wage rates, etc., and not expected to make a positive contribution to a company's success. Recent U. S. failures in the international marketplace, however, have shown the critical error of this corporate philosophy. Many high quality and low cost products are now successful even though more sophisticated products may be available.
Manufacturing strategies are the framework for accomplishing the long-term corporate goals for the manufacturing function. This framework helps to focus the corporation's goals for manufacturing and provides plans for integrating the necessary functions and resources into a coordinated effort to improve production. Communication of this strategy sets the right climate for teamwork and long-term planning that is necessary in developing manufacturing capabilities. The strategy should be well known throughout the company with regularly scheduled reviews to monitor progress on obtaining these goals.
Implementing manufacturing strategies should result in major changes throughout the organization. Improved communication between manufacturing and design engineers can result in designs that are more producible with higher levels of quality. By identifying and anticipating manufacturing technologies of the future, manufacturing will beat their competition in utilizing advances in manufacturing and be prepared with engineering expertise and equipment. Long-range strategic plans allow sufficient emphasis to be placed on specific areas of high technology manufacturing systems or product goals such as high quality and low cost.
Lack of a manufacturing strategy ignores the long-term process necessary to develop superior manufacturing capabilities. Strategic position gives way to short-term solutions resulting in considerable risk when the product design transitions to the production phase. Risks of poor quality, low reliability, and late deliveries are common with costly fixes necessary to meet production schedules.