Agile Manufacturing

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int. j. prod. res., 2001, vol. 39, no. 16, 3561±3600

A review of agile manufacturing systems
LUIS M. SANCHEZy and RAKESH NAGIy*
About a decade ago, the agile manufacturing paradigm was formulated in response to the constantly changing `new economy’ and as a basis for returning to global competitiveness. While agility means di erent things to di erent enterprises under di erent contexts, the following elements capture its essential concept: agility is characterized by cooperativeness and synergism (possibly resulting in virtual corporations), by a strategic vision that enables thriving in face of continuous and unpredictable change, by the responsive creation and delivery of customer-valued, high quality and mass customized goods/services, by nimble organization structures of a knowledgeable and empowered workforce, and facilitated by an information infrastructure that links constituent partners in a uni®ed electronic network. During this period, a signi®cant amount of attention from both the academic and industrial communities has produced a large body of results in research and development related to this topic. Each contribution has tackled a di erent aspect of this large ®eld. In this paper, we review a wide range of recent literature on agile manufacturing. About 73 papers from premier scienti®c journals and conferences have been reviewed, and a classi®cation scheme to organize these is proposed. We critique these bodies of work and suggest directions for additional research and identify topics where fruitful opportunities exist.

1.

Introduction World-class performance is a moving target that requires constant attention and e ort; the process is a neverending journey. In the past, economies of scale ruled the manufacturing world and everybody knew that mass production and full utilization of plant capacity was the way to make money. This style of manufacturing, resulted in in¯exible plants that could not be easily recon®gured, and were associated with swollen raw materials, work-in-process and ®nished goods inventories. Since the early 1980s, in pursuit of greater ¯exibility, elimination of excess in inventory, shortened lead-times, and advanced levels of quality in both products and customer service, industry analysts have popularized the terms `world-class manufacturing’ and `lean production’ (Sheridan 1993). In the 1990s, industry leaders were trying to formulate a new paradigm for successful manufacturing enterprises in the 21st century; even though many manufacturing ®rms were still struggling to implement lean production concepts. In 1991, a group of more than 150 industry executives participated in a study. Their e orts culminated in a two-volume report titled `21st Century Manufacturin g Enterprise Strategy’, which describes how US industrial competitiveness willÐor mightÐevolve during the next 15 years. As a result, the Agile Manufacturin g Revision received { Department of Industrial Engineering, 342 Bell Hall, University at Bu alo (SUNY), Bu alo, NY 14260, USA. * To whom correspondence should be addressed. e-mail: nagi@bu alo.edu International Journal of Production Research ISSN 0020±7543 print/ISSN 1366±588X online # 2001 Taylor & Francis Ltd http://www.tandf.co.uk/journals DOI: 10.1080/00207540110068790

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L. M. Sanchez and R. Nagi

Enterprise Forum (AMEF), a liated with the Iacocca Institute at Lehigh University, was formed and the concept of agile manufacturin g was introduced (Sheridan 1993, Struebing 1995, Richards 1996, Nagel and Dove 1991). For many, `Lean manufacturing ’ and `Agile manufacturing’ sound similar, but they are di erent. Lean manufacturing is a response to competitive pressures with limited resources. Agile manufacturing , on the other hand, is a response to complexity brought about by constant change. Lean is a collection of operational techniques focused on productive use of resources. Agility is an overall strategy focused on thriving in an unpredictable...
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