Academic journal article International Journal of Management

Total Manufacturing Information Systems: A Conceptual Model

Academic journal article International Journal of Management

Total Manufacturing Information Systems: A Conceptual Model

Article excerpt

Recent advances in manufacturing and information technologies present promising new strategic alternatives for designing a new manufacturing information system. Total manufacturing information system (TMIS) is an integrated system of manufacturing technologies and business strategy into an information system. It is a strategic tool for achieving competitive advantage, which enables firms to respond quickly to market changes, achieve flexibility of products and processes, and manage the complexity of today's manufacturing environment.

Introduction

Virtually all manufacturing systems today can trace their concepts and structures back to Adam Smith's idea of specialization of labor and the consequent fragmentation of work. The specialization makes sense of mass production of highly standardized products. Furthermore, Henry Ford's idea still convinces many manufacturers today that they can have either standardization at low cost or flexibility at high cost, but not both. This idea has been challenged by the success of Japanese automobile and electronics industries that are based on an integrated systems concept.

Recent advances in manufacturing and information technologies present promising new strategic alternatives for designing a new manufacturing system. Actually, more firms have begun using information systems strategically to reap significant competitive advantage. They put manufacturing functions and business strategy all together into an information system. By successfully extending the integrated systems concept beyond the ordinary manufacturing function, manufacturers are able to achieve an optimal balance of product standardization and manufacturing flexibility.

Total manufacturing information system (TMIS) is such a powerful alternative, which blends recent developments in manufacturing and information technology together to achieve competitive advantage. It enables manufacturing firms to respond quickly to market changes, achieve flexibility of products and processes, and manage the complexity of today's manufacturing environment.

This article provides a framework for defining TMIS and its component technologies in a business rather than a technical context. The framework identifies environmental threats and opportunities, TMIS capabilities, and related marketing, manufacturing, organizational design, and information systems development strategies. Broad strategic directions are also identified to formulate a vision of how TMIS can be used as a cometitive weapon.

Development of TMIS

An integrated systems concept is not a conglomerate built with vertical integration. Instead, the integrated manufacturing system consists of several independent components, with suppliers at one end and customers at the other end. To make the system operate efficiently, the manufacturing system should be designed with a greater functional integration, fewer layers of hierarchy, and more external partnerships.

Most of the current manufacturing systems are just individual applications of computer and/or information systems, and their efforts have focused on how to computerize advanced manufacturing technologies. However, TMIS seeks to incorporate these individual engineering, manufacturing and business applications into a totally integrated manufacturing information system.

Figure 1 illustrates how an information system integrates advanced manufacturing technologies and other supporting functions, making possible a new approach to designing an ultimate manufacturing information system. It provides a shared database, a database management capability, and a communications network to link marketing, product development, design & engineering, procurement, manufacturing, and quality control functions, etc. This integration provides enhanced business capabilities that cannot be fully attained by the individual system's objectives.

TMIS enables firms to build a strategic tool that functions every stage of manufacturing operations through a totally integrated information system. …

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