How to Make 20th-Century Control Systems Work for a 21st-Century Manufacturing Enterprise


Pundits have been predicting the death of manufacturing in North America and western Europe for decades. It hasn't happened yet, and it probably won't happen at all. The markets and the manufacturing capacity are so large it seems certain that manufacturing in North America and western Europe will continue.

While it may be true that manufacturing in the First World is becoming more competitive, this isn't a passive phenomenon. Companies that offer innovative product development, manufacturing operations and business practices are more able to respond to changes in business conditions on a global basis than companies that believe they are world-class and thus don't have to change.

To stay competitive in the global market, all your systems must be integrated to produce the least possible friction as materials become products and move to distribution. Friction occurs when systems don't talk to one another easily or simply don't interface well at all - and it costs money. It's time to take a fresh look at your manufacturing operations, from supply chain to distribution channels, and make sure they are all integrated, both horizontally with each other as well as vertically to the business systems of the enterprise. And during that fresh look, you need to look at your existing manufacturing assets.

In the First World, it is simply not possible to knock down existing plants and build new ones from a green field. When you develop your strategic agility plan, a big part of it is going to be making all your existing assets work together in an integrated fashion.

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