J.G. Thoburn Coventry University, UK S. Arunachalam Coventry University, UK A. Gunasekaran University of Massachusetts, North Dartmouth, Massachusetts, USA
Information systems, Agile production, Small-to-medium-sized enterprises
Today, manufacturing organisations are increasingly required to be highly optimised. Abstract The ability to respond swiftly and effectively The necessity of maintaining optito produce new products and services has mal operations and becoming an agile and responsive enterprise is become not so much a method of gaining competitive advantage, but more a means of becoming increasingly important to survive in the global market. survival. Many companies have seen the need Consequently, all resources in the to adopt a whole range of practices that reduce companies need to be effectively inputs and waste, and allow greater responmarshalled. Traditionally SMEs siveness to customer needs and the markethave concentrated on the 4Ms ± money, materials, machine and place. In reaction to changing requirements manpower but have often neand conditions, manufacturing paradigms glected the effective management continue to be defined. It is possible to identify of information, which many authors suggest is at the heart of two trends: those addressing predominantly any agile organisation. The effect the relationships required in local and global is inadequate or fragmented infor- trading environments such as that described mation systems (IS) that do not by Porter (1996) and those systems focusing on address the demands of operational or the wider strategic needs organisational structures within an enterof the company. The study reprise such as business process re-engineering ported here examines the diversi(Hammer and Champy, 1993). Arguably, the ties of problems that occur in agile manufacturing paradigm combines both. three different companies and, Changes in information technology and compares their systems to the communications in the last two decades have ideals of agile manufacturing. further shifted the balance towards the customer. There has been a huge growth in the number of computers in use, putting huge power on the desktop, at ever-decreasing hardware cost. The arrival of the Internet and the expansion of the free market in telecommunications present the option of simple and low cost communication. Now it has become easy for all players in the supply chain, or even individual consumers, to measure specification, price and supply performance against their needs. They can purchase goods that precisely meet their requirements from anywhere in the world, bypassing any perceived shortcomings of their local marketplace. In response to the need for agility or the requirements to link different parts of the International Journal of Agile organisation or elements of a supply chain Management Systems 1/2  116±126 effectively, systems are emerging that may # MCB University Press fundamentally change the organisation of [ISSN 1465-4652] manufacturing. In order that they might [ 116 ]
achieve this, companies must clearly understand and organise their information resources at the earliest possible stage in their development. It is clear that only those enterprises that are able to respond to market demands with minimum delay will survive. Kidd (1996) argues: The agility that arises can be used for competitive advantage, by being able to respond rapidly to changes occurring in the market environment and through the ability to use and exploit a fundamental resource, knowledge. People need to be brought together, in dynamic teams formed around clearly defined market opportunities, so that it becomes possible to level one another's knowledge. Through this process is sought the transformation of knowledge into new products and services.
High reaction flexibility will be no more...