How are manufacturers in our complex world approaching the problems associated with turning their environments from a more traditional forecast-driven, schedule-based one to an environment that is demand-driven and production-sequenced?
They do this by first deciding where their current environment needs to be changed to support the goals of their chosen demand-driven strategy. This is likely to include many of the following:
- Re-design of processes to allow multiple products to flow down a single line in a sequence of predictable, equally spaced and timed events
- Re-design of processes to eliminate waste and non-value-added activities
- Reduction or elimination of the constraints that impair the ability to build any product in any sequence required
Design of products to increase the touch points of commonality and move them as close as possible to the end of the production process and consequently as close to the customer as possible
Development of a knowledge-based process that will enable them to interact with their customers in a way that allows easy guidance through the selection and ultimately the selling process
Development of a method to efficiently and effectively sequence customer demand into production, using knowledge gained during the selection process along with knowledge about the production process to identify the optimum production date that will fulfill the customer’s request
Modification of the supply chain from a traditional push-style replenishment process to a pull-style environment that ensures material and component feeder lines are allowed to flow to the correct points of use within the production line
The ability to maintain flexibility in the supply chain to allow the production process to “flex” as required in response to changing demands
With all this in mind, your company may well choose to adopt a program such as Demand Flow Technology (DFT). However as we stated earlier, trademark issues have led to pseudonyms of this known as Flow Manufacturing or Demand Flow Manufacturing. Demand-Driven Flow Manufacturing is a methodology that supports the manufacture of products only on receipt of real demand. Both products and processes are designed so that the product “flows” at a consistent rate through each step of the manufacturing process. Demand Flow Manufacturing, or whatever your chosen flavor, will use a mixture of tools, techniques and technology in striving to get “all the necessary ducks in a row.”
These tools and techniques may include but are not limited to executing some of the following tactical practices:
- Cellular Manufacturing
- Continuous Improvement
- Six Sigma
Although we all know that most of the tools or techniques listed above are not new, today’s gurus of any of these philosophies have learned to take the best elements from some or all of the above and mold them into a highly effective set of tools that will help your company establish the necessary manufacturing environment.
What is relatively new, however, is the extent to which we can now use technology, in the form of software applications, that supports either the establishment of the environment or the execution of business processes required to move prospective demand through to its complete fulfillment. We are likely to utilize technology to help us perform the tasks not usually supported by traditional ERP applications, such as:
- Process re-engineering utilizing line design tools
- Guided selling through knowledge-based product configuration applications
- Using rules-based demand-sequencing, demand-smoothing and demand-promising applications to manage demand
- Execution of the supply chain utilizing electronic Kanban techniques
By combining technology with changes to our operating philosophy, we are taking many of the necessary steps to make our manufacturing environment as flexible, agile and responsive as possible and as inevitably required.
This is an edited excerpt of the paper “Demand-driven strategies for complex manufacturing.” To view the full paper, visit www.cincom.com/lrc.