The Path of Improvement In America's Factories
It's no exaggeration to say that American manufacturing was knocked to the tarp by agile and quality-conscious Japanese competitors in the 1970s. The rebirth of American manufacturing has been written about in other books. The value of Innovations in Competitive Manufacturing, however, is its systemic, step-by-step overview, by experts in the field, of every important manufacturing innovation that occurred between 1980 and 2000. Edited by Auburn University professor Paul M. Swamidass, the book brings together more than 40 academic experts writing on 34 innovations - from lean manufacturing and total quality management to concurrent engineering, mass customization, enterprise resource planning and flexible automation.
A New Manufacturing Strategy
One of the engines of the manufacturing resurgence, according to Swamidass and his co-authors, is a manufacturing strategy that is no longer limited to cost-reduction and minimization. Today's manufacturing strategists are going to look at quality, flexibility, dependability and timeliness as well. They will strive to acquire a competitive advantage through better product design, high customer satisfaction and faster new product introduction - goals that can be measured through specific manufacturing outcomes such as development costs; superior manufacturing technology; order processing time; development time; and production/transfer time.
Core Manufacturing Competencies
Core manufacturing competencies are key to developing and implementing a successful modern manufacturing strategy. In a chapter on competencies, Michigan State University professor Morgan Schwink outlines seven core manufacturing competencies: improvement, innovation, integration, acuity (which is the ability to understand, acquire, develop and convey valuable information and insights regarding products or processes), agility and responsiveness.
Schwink notes that improvement, innovation and integration are core competencies required to achieve growth strategies - in other words, long-term improvements in manufacturing outcomes, such as the ones listed above. Acuity, control, agility and responsiveness are "steady state" competencies - competencies that contribute to manufacturing outcomes today.
In addition to manufacturing strategy, the book looks closely at issues such as lean production, redefined product design, supply chain management, improved costing measures and quality. Individual chapters break apart the specific innovative components of each issue. For example, the section on lean manufacturing includes chapters on just-in-time manufacturing, lean manufacturing implementation, total productive maintenance, cell manufacturing and predictive maintenance.
Clear writing, the lack of technical jargon and the effective use of charts further enhance the accessibility of the chapters; non-manufacturing managers have nothing to fear in this text.
All About Cell Manufacturing
The chapter on cell manufacturing, for example, uses an in-depth case study (one of four chapters to do so) to explain not only the concept but the challenges involved. While a dry explanation of cell manufacturing might have emphasized the physical restructuring involved - breaking the factoring into dedicated manufacturing cells focused on only one product or one class of product - the case study allows the authors of the chapter to emphasize the human element of the process.
Cell manufacturing empowers employees - instead of running only one machine, hourly employees needed to learn all the operations of the cell and work in a team environment. Hourly employees also acquired some management functions, such as participating in hiring, skill level certification and promotion decisions. The change was significant for both employees and managers alike, leading to widespread resistance.
Other more technical issues are also covered, as the authors of the chapter examine each of the four product cells in detail (including charts of traditional and cell layouts). The result is an in-depth explanation of cell manufacturing in a little more than 10 pages.
Why Soundview Likes This Book
Although an academic book - it was first published by Kluwer in 2000 and is now being issued by AMACOM in paperback - Innovations in Competitive Manufacturing offers clear, accessible writing and well-organized chapters that will allow MBA and EMBA students, as well as manufacturing and non-manufacturing managers, to fully understand the innovations that enabled American manufacturing to rebound.