Is Manufacturing a Weak Link in Your Supply Chain?

By Donovan, R. Michael | Industrial Management, November/December 1996 | Go to article overview

Is Manufacturing a Weak Link in Your Supply Chain?


Donovan, R. Michael, Industrial Management


Manufacturing wants to produce a predetermined amount of product to a set schedule, while customers want their suppliers to be very responsive and provide short cycle deliveries to meet their changing demands. The manufacturers want to sell large quantities, while the customers want to have just enough inventory to meet their immediate needs.

More and more, suppliers are being told the "new rules" are mandatory and the consequence for non-compliance is the loss of business. The manufacturer must conform to new and rapidly evolving criteria that are turning supply chain management inside out. As a result, an increasingly critical issue for manufacturers is determining where the weak link is in their supply chain.

Where is the weak link in your supply chain?

Often manufacturing is perceived as the weak link in the supply chain. Yet, the reality is that manufacturing operations are often besieged with constantly changing priorities, demands that don't align with forecasts, late deliveries, product specification problems, capability imbalances, material flow interruptions, and systems that are of little help in dealing with these day-to-day issues. All of these variables constrain operational capabilities and result in unpredictable performance. The need to correct processes internal to manufacturing as well as those external becomes very apparent.

During the latter part of the 1980s and early 1990s, top management sought to meet the challenge of increasing customer satisfaction by focusing internally, hoping to correct faulty processes through reengineering. However, many of these initiatives never accomplished what top management hoped for, primarily because many so-called reengineering efforts were not that at all. Many of the so-called reengineering efforts failed to consider the need for comprehensive internal and external business process changes including policies, attitudes, performance measurements, peripheral business practices, organizational behavior, and supporting information technology.

Are we improving fast enough?

How can a company gauge whether it's getting ahead or falling behind in potential manufacturing performance improvement? One way to get the thought process of the entire management team into action is to benchmark your company's improvement track record to some general criteria. …

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