Agile manufacturing refers to the ability of an organization to modify and adjust its manufacturing or production processes in accordance with the unpredictable changes in consumer needs and wants. It entails rapidly changing the production processes of a firm so as to enable the company to meet the ever-changing and dynamic demands of customers.
Agile manufacturing developed from lean manufacturing. Its major target is determination and identification of customer needs and repositioning of the company to continuously satisfy such needs. It involves development of production techniques that are based on such individualized needs of customers. It brings about quick and flexible production techniques for developing new products.
Agile manufacturing gives the company competitive advantage over its competitors since it often changes it production strategies with the aim of meeting and exceeding customer expectations. This is because the customers’ needs are always satisfied.
Agile manufacturing also encourages production of innovative products. New products are often designed in accordance with the customers’ demands or expectations (Montgomery & Levine 2010, Wang & Koh 2010). In my view, this provides a good basis for production and creation of a pool of various goods from which customers may choose what they want.
Agile manufacturing also enables a company to quickly respond to new developments and unexploited opportunities in the market. Similarly, it facilitates quick response to challenges and crisis that the company may face, for example, stiff competitions or technological advancements. Agile manufacturing also allows the company to maximize and fully utilize its production capacity with ease. It makes the company flexible enough to rapidly respond to emerging customer demands without necessarily changing its level of production. As Kidd states, agile manufacturing facilitates flexible mass production.
According to Youssef, agile manufacturing may lead to unexpected increase in cost of production (2008). This is because new machinery and equipment may be acquired for new production techniques that would meet new customer demands. High costs of production may also result from frequent updates for new production technologies, machinery repairs and maintenance and continuous training of workers.
Additionally, sudden changes in demand may result into products shortages as well as piling of already manufactured goods. Goods that are already manufactured may be rendered obsolete in the market due to changes in demands and hence become wastages to the company. Gunasekaran states that agile manufacturing improves production capability of a firm in addition to improving its supply chain (2005).
Furthermore, additional investment in highly skilled workforce is required for a company to be an agile manufacturer. This results into additional expenses. Finally, agile manufacturing requires extensive and intensive planning and proper management of production technologies. This entails additional expenses hence expensive to the firm. For example, shifting from production of one brand of a good to another will require adequate research and acquisition of new machinery.