In this literature, "What really makes factories flexible?" the writer brought out the topic for factory flexibility, which defines as a production facility organized to respond to customer orders quickly in order to provide a full and varied range of operations or services, across many product lines with very short changeover times and may introduce new products of similar range fairly easy. For example, most modern automobile plants are designed as flexible factories to build various models. Having acknowledged the importance of flexibility, how would manufacturing managers in a broad array of industries find pathways to improve the process? What are the difficulties of defining flexibility of a plant and how do they measure flexibility in terms of plant productivity? What measurements are needed to show improvement of the process? The author performed a research in a study of sixty-one factories in North America that manufacture fine paper to find out the answer.
Define the problem:
Unlike most other industries in which different plants make different products, the paper industry's products are more comparable across plants since paper are produced by very similar process. There are a few characteristics for the paper industries to be the right candidate. In paper industry, the qualities of products by grades are straightforward numbers which can be able to be measured by the author. These numbers enabled the author to develop both the range of paper a plant could produce and how much time it needed for a plant to switch from making one kind of paper to making another. By using these numbers the author was be able to define the operational flexibility for manufacturing plants needed to measure and find the ways to improve the processes. Defining the problem is the first thing needed by each manager. "What is flexibility?" Managers are having hard times to define as the term may mean very different for different people. At plant level, it is