Building Operational Flexibility in a World of Uncertainty

Industry Today

By Ken Koenemann

Building Operational Flexibility in a World of Uncertainty

Political leaders in the United States, the United Kingdom and elsewhere are hotly debating what the future of globalization will look like. At this point no one knows what changes to current trade agreements and governmental policy will ultimately be implemented. What financial impact these changes will have on manufacturing companies —positive or negative – is even more uncertain.

What we do know is that flexibility has always been the best hedge against uncertainty. Here are three ways for executives to improve operational flexibility and prepare your company for whatever happens next. Read this Industry Today article to receive insights on each:

  1. Make flexibility part of your strategic plan
  2. Build flexibility into decision making
  3. Protect and expand process flexibility

On the people side, employment regulations, union contracts and the need to hold onto good employees all limit labor flexibility. Cross-training personnel increases the ability to adjust production schedules based on actual demand, and manage absenteeism. Such flexibility – having the ability to produce every product every day – also helps improve equipment utilization and productivity.

In conclusion, the need for operational flexibility will continue to grow with rising customer expectations for more product configurations, more customization, more frequent new product introductions and faster order fulfillment cycles. By following the mindset and strategies noted above, manufacturer business leaders can increase flexibility without letting costs spiral out of control.

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