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As we approach the twenty-first century, manufacturing success and survival are becoming more and more difficult to ensure. This fact is rooted in the emergence of a new business era that embraces “change” as one of its major characteristics. The emphasis is now on adaptability to changes in the business environment and on addressing market and customer needs proactively. The emerging paradigm is agile manufacturing. Understanding and responding to changes, and taking advantage of changes through strategic utilisation of managerial and manufacturing methods and tools, are some of the pivotal concepts of agile manufacturing. This paper discusses these concepts and presents a methodology to assist manufacturing companies to achieve agility. Industrial questionnaire surveys and case studies are carried out to support and validate the methodology. Results and conclusions derived from the surveys and case studies in support of the methodology are reported.
International Journal of Operations &
Production Management,
Vol. 20 No. 4, 2000, pp. 496-512.
# MCB University Press, 0144-3577
A methodology for achieving
agility in manufacturing
Z. Zhang and H. Sharifi
The University of Liverpool, Liverpool, UK
Keywords Methodology, Agile production, Manufacturing, Organizational change
Abstract As we approach the twenty-first century, manufacturing success and survival are
becoming more and more difficult to ensure. This fact is rooted in the emergence of a new
business era that embraces ``change'' as one of its major characteristics. The emphasis is now on
adaptability to changes in the business environment and on addressing market and customer
needs proactively. The emerging paradigm is agile manufacturing. Understanding and
responding to changes, and taking advantage of changes through strategic utilisation of
managerial and manufacturing methods and tools, are some of the pivotal concepts of agile
manufacturing. This paper discusses these concepts and presents a methodology to assist
manufacturing companies to achieve agility. Industrial questionnaire surveys and case studies are
carried out to support and validate the methodology. Results and conclusions derived from the
surveys and case studies in support of the methodology are reported.
Uncertainty/change in the business environment has been a major topic in
management research for a long time. Thompson (1967) suggested that one of
the most important tasks for any organisation is to manage uncertainties.
Drucker (1968) described the concept of entrepreneurial task as the search for
change, response to change, and exploitation of change as opportunities.
As Hayen (1988) pointed out, there is nothing new about change. However,
today's change is taking place at a much faster speed than ever. Turbulence
and uncertainty in the business environment have become the main cause of
failures in manufacturing industry (Small and Downey, 1996). The perceived
radical trend of change has made ground for the emergence of a new business
era beyond traditional ones such as mass production and lean production
(Iacocca Institute, 1991). A new manufacturing paradigm, known as ``agility'',
has been proposed as a strategy to enable manufacturing enterprises to
maintain their competitive advantages in this new era.
The paradigm is primarily concerned with the ability of enterprises to cope
with unexpected changes, to survive unprecedented threats from the business
environment, and to take advantage of changes as opportunities (Goldman et al.,
1995). The concept of agility comprises two main factors (Dove, 1996; Kidd, 1995):
(1) Responding to changes (anticipated or unexpected) in proper ways and
due time.
(2) Exploiting changes and taking advantage of changes as opportunities.
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A methodology
for achieving
This necessitates a basic ability for any organisation, that is sensing, perceiving
and anticipating changes in the business environment. An agile manufacturer,
in this respect, is an organisation with a broad vision of the new order of
business world, and with a handful of capabilities and abilities to deal with
turbulence and capture the advantageous side of changing circumstances. The
question is how a manufacturing enterprise could identify the necessary tools
and techniques and acquire the relevant capabilities and abilities in order to
become agile. Until now, answers to this question have been expressed in a very
ambiguous way, as are the characteristics defined for an agile organisation.
Preiss et al. (1996) has put forward a new understanding of co-operation as an
important means for achieving agility and has proposed four steps for
implementing agility, which include understanding market forces, recognising
enterprise level attributes, obtaining enabling infrastructures, and implementing
business practices. The work has, however, stopped short of spelling out details
as to how these steps should be carried out. Dove et al. (1997) have proposed an
agile enterprise reference model, in which 24 critical business practices for agility
were identified and real-life case studies were provided to demonstrate how
various change issues were addressed using individual practices. A change
proficiency maturity model was also proposed to help evaluate the competency
of companies in addressing changes. The question remaining to be answered is
how these practices might be integrated with other existing practices/tools
within an organisation, which practices are the most important for an individual
organisation, and what are the priorities. There is a lack of systematic tools to
assist organisations to make these strategic decisions.
A recent empirical study carried out by the authors has investigated six UK
manufacturers operating successfully in a turbulent market environment. The
results from the study suggest:
Agility can be achieved in a manufacturing organisation through the
strategic integration and utilisation of available managerial and
manufacturing methods and tools (Sharifi and Zhang, 1998; 1999),
including those already developed and used in other paradigms and
those recently developed for agile manufacturing. Recently developed
``agility practices'' need to be fully integrated with existing ones in order
to achieve the expected results and the way for such integration is often
Different organisations experience different sets of changes and different
levels of pressures resulting from the changes, and therefore would require
different combinations of practices and tools to cope with the changes.
This paper will describe a conceptual model for implementing agility in
industry based on the above findings and presents a methodology with a
number of supporting tools to help manufacturing enterprises make strategic
decisions in their pursuit of agile manufacturing.
The conceptual model for implementing agility
Figure 1 shows the proposed conceptual model for implementing agility in
manufacturing organisations. It has three constituting blocks. The first is concerned
with ``agility drivers'', which are the changes/pressures from the business
environment that necessitate a company to search for new ways of running its
business in order to maintain its competitive advantages. The second is concerned
with ``agility capabilities'', which are the essential capabilities that the company
needs in order to positively respond to and take advantage of the changes. The third
is concerned with ``agility providers'' that are the means by which the so-called
capabilities could be obtained. These providers are to be sought from four major
areas of the manufacturing environment, i.e. organisation, people, technology, and
innovation. It is also suggested that the providers need to be fully integrated with
the support of information systems/technology.
Based on this model, a manufacturing enterprise experiences a variety of
changes/pressures in its business environment which drives the enterprise to
identify ``agility capabilities'' that need to be acquired or enhanced in order to take
advantage of the changes. This in turn forces the enterprise to search for ways and
tools to obtain/enhance the required capabilities. Obviously, different organisations
will experience different sets of changes as well as different levels of pressures
resulting from each change. Consequently, different combinations of capabilities
will have to be obtained for different organisations.
A methodology for achieving agility
Based on the conceptual model described above, a methodology has been
developed to help manufacturing companies formulate strategic policies in their
pursuit of agile manufacturing. It consists of three major stages: the determination
of a company's agility needs and its current agility level; the determination of
Need to Become
Strategic Intent to
Become Agile
Agility Strategy
Agility Drivers
Figure 1.
The conceptual model
for implementing agility
A methodology
for achieving
agility capabilities required for the company to become agile; and the identification
of business practices and tools which could bring about the recognised capabilities
for the company. The graphical form of this methodology is depicted in Figure 2.
First, the business environment as the source of turbulence and changes imposes
pressures on the business activities of a company (Preiss, 1997). These uncertainties,
changes, and pressures, i.e. the so-called agility drivers, urge the company to search
for appropriate ways to maintain their competitive advantages. The drivers could
vary from one company to another and from one situation to another, and therefore
the way they affect a company could vary as well. This necessitates a method to
detect and recognise the changes in the business environment.
As changes and pressures faced by companies may be different, the degrees
of agility required by individual companies will be different (James-Moore,
1996). This degree is defined as the ``agility need level'', which is a function of
various factors such as the degree of turbulence of the business environment,
the characteristics of the environment in which the company competes, and the
characteristics of the company itself. Once the agility need level is determined
for a company, the next step is to assess the current agility level of the
company, i.e. how agile the company is now. The difference between the level
of agility required and that which the company already has may then be
analysed to provide a basis for further decision making. In this work, the
outputs from the analysis are broadly classified into four categories:
(1) The company does not need to be agile.
(2) The company is agile enough to respond to changes it might face in the
(3) The company needs to take actions to become agile but not as an urgent
(4) The company needs to be agile strongly and urgently.
The next stage following the analysis of agility needs is to determine the
required agility capabilities in order to become agile. This would require the
Agility Drivers
Changes/Pressures in
Competition Basis
Customer Req.
Social Factors
Assessment of
Agility Needs
Assessment of
Agility level
Strategy Formulation
Identification of
Missing Capabilities
Identification of
Agility Providers
Figure 2.
The proposed
methodology to achieve
detection, recognition and classification of changes faced by the company, as
well as the analysis of the impact individual changes will bring to the company.
The agility capabilities required may then be determined from the changes.
The final stage in the methodology involves identifying agility providers
that could bring about the required capabilities, implementing the identified
providers, determining the level of agility achieved (through performance
measurement), and formulating corrective measures to further improve the
performance. A number of tools are being developed to assist manufacturing
enterprises to carry out the above process, which are discussed below.
Agility assessment tools
As defined above, ``agility need level'', representing the degree of agility required by
a company, is a direct function of various factors including the degrees of
turbulence of the company's business environment, and the levels of sophistication
of the company's operational and internal conditions. This means that the more the
circumstances for doing business are changing and sophisticated, the more agile the
organisation needs to be. Therefore, the extent to which the factors representing
agility drivers are perceived as changing and turbulent and the operational and
internal conditions are observed as sophisticated will be the indicator of the
turbulence of the company's business circumstances, and would represent the level
of agility the company needs in order to stay in business, maintain a competitive
advantage, and make further progresses. Similarly, the ``current agility level'' of a
company represents the ability the company already has to address the agility
drivers. Therefore, the extent to which the company is able to cope with the
turbulence of individual drivers would represent the company's current level of
agility. This could also be measured indirectly by assessing the availability and
strength of necessary capabilities in the company to deal with the drivers.
An assessment model, shown in Figure 3, is developed to study the
circumstances in which a company struggles for success, and to provide an initial
mindset for the company to move towards agility. It includes two assessment
tools, one assessing the company's business environment and operational/internal
Agility Drivers
Assessment of
Agility Needs
Agility Capabilities
Assessment of
Agility level
Gap Analysis
Company‘s weak
points and flaws
Strategy Formulation
Figure 3.
The assessment model
for agility
A methodology
for achieving
conditions, and the other evaluating the current level of agility of the company.
Following the assessments, two types of analysis are carried out. The first is a gap
analysis in which a speculative interpretation is made to specify the point where
the company is located on a continuum that starts from ``no need for agility at all''
to ``high level of agility needed very urgently''. The other is a direct analysis of the
results from the second assessment to show the weak points of the company,
considering the situation in the business environment and the available ability of
the company in coping with the situation.
A. Determination of agility needs
A number of factors, including perceived changes from outside environment as
well as possible internal pressures that would make a company's circumstances
harsher or severer in the near future, are selected as measures to assess the
turbulence of business environment and conditions of the company. These
factors are used to determine the importance and urgency of becoming agile.
They are to be scored in a self-assessment questionnaire form, based on their
degrees of turbulence and/or their impacts on the company's performance. Each
score represents a proportional value with regard to the highest possible level in
the specific area. The average score on all factors is taken as an estimation of the
agility needs of the company. The score for each factor is designed to be between
1 and 10. The closer the score is to 10, the more turbulent the company's business
and the more agile the company needs to be.
As shown in Figure 4, the tool takes a multi-layered structure. The top layer
consists of seven general areas that would be assessed. These include changes in
five aspects of business environment (i.e. marketplace, competition, customer
requirements, technology, and social factors), the complexity of external
conditions (supplier problems), and the internal complexity of the company. In the
second layer, each area to be assessed is broken down into a number of sub-areas.
For example, the internal complexity of a company is broken down in this layer
into sub-areas, such as the number of products, product complexity, product
design process complexity, manufacturing planning and control complexity,
manufacturing process complexity, and so on. The third and further layers
involve more detailed breakdown of sub-areas where necessary and finally
questions are devised to assess the level of turbulence or complexity of the detailed
sub-areas. In total, 72 questions are asked to assess the 32 sub-areas shown in
Figure 4. The assessment questions are not included in this paper due to page
limitations but interested readers are welcome to contact the authors for copies.
It should be pointed out that the resulting estimation is specific to individual
companies and would not serve as a comparative measure of the company's position
relative to its competitors. A detailed study of scoring factors with consideration of
differences in sectors and sizes (as well as other organisational characteristics) of
companies is being carried out, which will be reported in future publications.
B. Assessment of current agility level
The assessment of the current agility level is carried out with a similar scoring
model. The factors being scored in the model include general factors such as how
responsive the company is to changes in its business environment, how able is
the company in proactively capturing the market and customer needs and in
taking advantage of unexpected opportunities in market. Each of these general
factors is divided into many sub-factors, such as the rate of new product
introduction, which can be scored more accurately. Therefore, the assessment
tool also takes a layered structure. The top layer corresponds to the three general
areas to be assessed: i.e. the ability of a company in detecting, analysing and
understanding the changes in its business environment, the ability of a company
in dealing with these changes (by effecting the changes in its internal and
external affairs) and providing the right solutions in the shortest possible time,
and the ability of a company in tackling the changes as opportunities and taking
advantages of the opportunities. In the second layer, the three general areas are
broken down into sub-areas corresponding to individual agility drivers to be
dealt with. Of course, only sub-areas corresponding to the drivers that are
reasonably turbulent for a specific company, as indicated in the results from
agility need level assessment, are to be assessed for the company. The results
2-Competition 3-Customer
4-Technology 5-Social factors
Turbulence of the Business Environment
6-Suppliers 7-Internal
1. Market
2. Market
3. Market
4. Market
5. Market
6. Market
7. Power of
8. Market
10. Product
life cycle
1. Competition
2. Competitors’
3. Competition
4. Substitutes
for products
1. Customer
2. Customer
3. Customer
for price,
delivery time
4. Customer
1. Environ-
2. Legisla-
3. Govern-
4. General
of new
1. Relations
with suppliers
2. Reliability/
ness of
1. Number of
2. Product
3. Process
4. Product
design process
5. Mfg planning
and control
6. Mfg process
Figure 4.
Analysing the need of a
company to be agile
A methodology
for achieving
from need level assessment are used to control the scoring process. In the third
layer, a number of questions are designed to assess the availability and strength
of various capabilities in dealing with problems corresponding to the individual
sub-areas in layer two. These capabilities are generally taken from four
categories, i.e. competency, responsiveness, flexibility, and quickness. Further
breakdown is made where appropriate to enable the factors to be objectively
measured. In total, 66 questions are asked, from which an average score (between
1 and 10) is calculated as the current agility level of a company.
The sub-factors are currently being studied further with consideration of
differences in sectors, sizes, and other organisational characteristics of
companies. A weighting scheme is also being considered to reflect the different
levels of importance of capabilities being considered to individual agility drivers
for a given organisation.
Determination of agility capabilities
In order to determine the agility capabilities that need to be acquired/enhanced in
a company to cope with changes/pressures from the business environment (i.e.
agility drivers), it is necessary to establish first which capabilities are effective in
addressing a given driver and the corresponding levels of effectiveness of these
capabilities in coping with the driver. This problem is further complicated by the
fact that capabilities are sometimes related and the enhancement of one
capability may lead to the enhancement of other capabilities at a different scale.
In this work, the relationships between drivers and capabilities are established
statistically using data obtained from an industrial questionnaire study
involving 1,000 companies and a number of in-depth case studies involving 12
selected companies. These will be discussed in the next section.
Based on the established relationships between drivers and capabilities, a
simple network model shown in Figure 5 is proposed to assist manufacturing
organisations to determine which capabilities should be obtained/enhanced in
order to cope with the drivers experienced by the organisations.
Each node in the input layer of the network corresponds to an agility driver
and its value represents the degree of turbulence of the driver for an
organisation. Each node in the middle layer corresponds to an agility capability
and its value represents the level of importance of the capability to an
organisation. Each node in the input layer is fully connected to all nodes in the
middle layer. The connection strength between a node in the input layer
(corresponding to a driver) and a node in the middle layer (corresponding to a
capability) is controlled by a weight factor, the value of which corresponds to
the degree of effectiveness of the capability in coping with the driver. As
mentioned earlier, the values of the weight factors are obtained from
statistically analysing data gathered from the empirical questionnaire study
and case studies. Each middle layer node is also connected to all other nodes in
the same layer. The strength of connection from capability A to capability B
represents the level of enhancement of capability A due to the enhancement of
B. When the two capabilities are unrelated, the connection weight will have the
value 0. Therefore, a capability node receives an input from every connection,
either with individual drivers or with other capabilities, the value of which is
calculated as the product between the value of the source node and the
corresponding connection strength. All inputs to the capability node are then
added together. The resulting sum is processed by an s-shaped function and
allocated to the capability node as its value, which represents the level of
importance of the capability to an organisation. This operation may be
summarised in the following equations:
f x
1 e
where D
is the value of the input layer node corresponding to the jth driver (j =
1, 2, 3,. . ., m), x
is the sum of inputs to the middle layer node corresponding to
the ith capability (i = 1, 2, 3,. . ., k), U
is the strength of connection from the jth
driver to the ith capability, W
is the strength of connection from the jth
capability to the ith capability (W
=0 where i=j), C
is the value of the middle
layer node corresponding to the ith capability, f is an s-shaped function used to
normalise the resulting values to the range between 0 and 1, b is a bias found
statistically from the survey data, m and k are the total numbers of drivers and
capabilities respectively.
Agility Drivers
Lateral Links W
Connection V
Connection U
Agility Capabilities
Agility Providers
Figure 5.
Network to determine
the required agility
capabilities and
A methodology
for achieving
The principle behind the above operation may be explained as follows: the
more turbulent an agility driver is to an organisation, the more important an
agility capability connected to the driver; the more effective an agility
capability is in coping with a driver, the more important the capability. The
same principle holds for the connections between capabilities.
For practical applications, the degrees of turbulence of individual agility drivers
for an organisation, as obtained from the agility assessment tools, are normalised
to fractional values between 0 and 1 and presented to the network as values of the
input nodes. The values of all nodes representing capabilities are initialised to 0.
The operation shown in the above equations is then carried out for every capability
node to find its new value. If the strengths of inter-connections between capability
nodes are non-zero, this operation will be carried out in an iterative loop, as shown
in the equations below, until the values of all nodes become stabilised:
f x
1 e
where x
and C
refer to the value of x
and C
after iteration t, and C
refers to
the value of C
before iteration t.
Identification of agility providers
A list of business practices, methods, tools, and techniques, generally referred to
as agility providers that could bring about agility capabilities for manufacturing
companies are formulated/identified through the empirical questionnaire study
and case studies. These include both proven tools and practices that are already
available to manufacturing organisations as well as those which are still being
developed by the research community. The effectiveness of these agility providers
(or the perceived effectiveness of those providers still under development) in
obtaining individual capabilities is also found based on a statistical analysis of
data obtained from the empirical questionnaire study and the case studies. The
resulting relationships between capabilities and providers are then represented by
another layer in the network shown in Figure 5. Each node in the third layer of the
network corresponds to an agility provider and its value represents the
importance of the provider to an organisation. Each capability node is fully
connected to all nodes representing providers. The connection strength between a
capability and a provider is controlled by a weight factor corresponding to the
effectiveness of the provider in bringing about the capability. Each provider node
receives input from every capability nodes, calculated as the product between the
value of the capability node and the connection strength. The sum of all inputs is
then processed by an s-shaped function to produce the value of the provider node,
again between the range of 0 and 1.
Practical study to implement and validate the methodology
An industrial questionnaire survey and a number of in-depth case studies have been
conducted to investigate the practical aspects of the proposed methodology. The
survey and case studies were designed to carry out a general study of agility drivers,
the strategies and capabilities adopted by manufacturing companies in response to
the drivers, and the agility providers deployed to achieve the capabilities, and to
establish a preliminary correlation between the drivers, capabilities, and providers.
The survey covered 1,000 companies from three major industrial sectors, the
Electrical and Electronic Manufacturing sector, the Aerospace Manufacturing sector,
and the Vehicle Parts Manufacturing sector. The case studies covered 12 companies
selected from the survey sample. While the details of the survey and case studies are
reported in other publications (Zhang and Sharifi, 1999a; 1999b), some of the
important findings are summarised below:
(1) Changes/pressures from business environment, i.e. the agility drivers, are
strongly recognised by companies as the source of disturbances and problems
in the battlefield of competition. These changes/pressures vary from sector to
sector and from company to company. However, ``change of customer
requirements'' is identified as the most important factor for all three sectors.
Although the number, types, specifications or characteristics of changes
could not be easily determined (different companies with different
characteristics and in different circumstances experience different sets of
changes that are specific and perhaps unique to their situations), changes
occurring in companies from different sectors do share common
characteristics. Some common areas where typical manufacturing companies
may face change and the corresponding changes, which may occur in those
areas, were established during the research. These are shown in Table I. The
changes were ranked by each participating company for their respective
degrees of impact on the companies' business, as shown in Table I.
(2) Companies in different sectors respond differently to changes by
considering strategic capabilities, which suit them and correlate to their
specific circumstances. Focusing on customers has, however, been
emphasised by most respondents.
A generic list of capabilities has been determined through the study.
These may be divided into four major categories.
Responsiveness: This is the ability to identify changes, respond
rapidly to changes either reactively or proactively, and recover from
changes. This is itemised as:
± Sensing, perceiving and anticipating changes.
± Immediate reaction to changes.
± Recovering from changes.
Competency: This is an extensive list of abilities that provide a
company with productivity, efficiency, and effectiveness in achieving
its aims and goals. The following items form the major part of the list:
A methodology
for achieving
± Strategic vision.
± Appropriate technology, or sufficient technological capability.
± Products/service quality.
± Cost- effectiveness.
± High rate of new products introduction.
± Change management.
± Knowledgeable, competent, and empowered people.
± Operations efficiency and effectiveness (leanness).
± Co-operation (internal and external).
± Integration.
Flexibility: This is the ability to carry out different work and achieve
different objectives with the same facilities. It consists of items such as:
± Product volume flexibility.
± Product model/configuration flexibility.
± Organisation and organisational issues flexibility.
± People flexibility.
Table I.
Changes as agility
Changes Impact Changes Impact
1. Changes in market 4. Changes in technology
Growth of niche market M Introduction of faster and more L/M
National and international political changes L/M efficient/economic production
Increasing rate of change in product models M/H facility
Product lifetime shrinkage L/M
Introduction of new soft M/H
2. Changes in competition criteria technologies (software and
Rapidly changing market M
Increasing pressure on cost H Inclusion of information L/M
Increasing rate of innovation L/M technology in (new) hard
Increasing pressure of global competition M/H technologies
Decreasing new products time-to-market M/H
Responsiveness of competitors to changes L/M 5. Change in social factors
3. Changes in customer requirements Environmental pressures M/H
Workforce/workplace L/M
Demand for individualised products/services L/M expectations
Quicker delivery time and time-to-market M/H Legal/political pressures L/M
Quality expectation increasing M/H Cultural problems L
Sudden changes in order quantity
Notes: L = Low; M = Medium; H = High
Speed: This is the ability to carry out tasks and operations in the
shortest possible time. Items include:
± Quickness in new products time-to-market.
± Quickness and timeliness in products and services delivery.
± Quickness in operations (short operational lead-times).
Among the four types of capabilities, responsiveness is the essential
capability for any organisation which needs to be agile. The other
three are the necessary elements in order to achieve responsiveness.
(3) Utilisation of methods, tools and techniques to obtain the required
capabilities is widely experienced or considered by respondents.
Most of the proposed practices as appropriate tools for agile
manufacturing including information system methods/tools/
techniques are partially implemented in more than 60 per cent of
companies. At the same time, despite the perceived impact and
importance of these practices, the achievements resulting from them
in responding to changes and taking competitive advantage have
not gone far enough. This could be interpreted as being due to the
lack of strategic intent and weakness of approaches to the adoption
of practices.
Practices regarding Organisation and People are found to be more
effective and also more important for manufacturers. In contrast to the
strong emphasis of agile manufacturing literature on the need for
practices such as virtual organisation, mass-customisation, and
utilising the Internet as an information tool, these practices were found
to be implemented partially in only a small percentage of responding
A generalised list of practices, which could be associated with the
identified agility capabilities, is produced as the result of the research,
which is shown in Table II.
Data obtained from the survey and case studies were also analysed to validate
the conceptual model and to provide necessary support for the implementation
of the methodology.
During the questionnaire study, three issues were examined independently.
The first was concerned with agility drivers. Questions were designed to assess to
what extent each of the agility drivers was turbulent for each organisation. The
second is concerned with agility capabilities. Questions were put forward to
assess the importance and the degree of relevance of each agility capability to the
responding organisation. The third is concerned with agility providers. Questions
were used to assess the level of implementation of each agility provider in the
responding organisation, the effectiveness of the provider if implemented, and the
perceived importance of the provider if not yet implemented. The resulting data
sets concerned with the three issues were then cross-tabulated to find if they were
A methodology
for achieving
correlated statistically. The analysis confirmed that there is a strong correlation
between drivers, capabilities, and providers. This provides a preliminary
validation of the proposed conceptual model.
Further analysis was also carried out to find the strength of correlation
between individual drivers and capabilities and between capabilities and
practices. This helped us to establish the connection strengths between nodes
in the network tool proposed in this paper. Some of the established connection
strengths are illustrated in Table III, where relationships between two agility
drivers (changes) and a number of agility capabilities are listed.
It may be seen from this Table that ``cost-effectiveness'' as a capability in the
``competency'' category is ranked first on the list of capabilities to deal with
``increasing pressure on cost'' (as a driver), followed by ``appropriate technology/
sufficient technological ability'', and then by ``strategic vision'', ``products/service
quality'' and ``operational efficiency/leanness''. ``Quick new products time-to-market'',
Table II.
A list of agility
General business practices Information systems Tech/tools
Establishing partnership with suppliers and/
or customers
Establishment of an information
management plan or model
Close relationship with suppliers/customers,
and involving them in co.'s planning and
product development process
Strategic use of information
system through the company's
information management plan
Establishing virtual organisation Using Internet and related
information tools as a means of
communication with outside
Adoption of advanced technology Using an internal information
network, that makes information
available company-wide
Mass-customisation through utilising
adequate technology integration of inter-
organisational systems, modules and the
manufacturing system
Using integrated computer-
based product development
Flexible mfg
system (FMS)
Flexible, responsive to changes, flat, and
learning organisation
Using computerised
manufacturing information
Lean mfg
Continuous reengineering of the organisation
and business processes based on
Using computerised
manufacturing information
system, compatible with
international standards of data
exchange and transfer such as
Informal, coaching, and encouraging
management style
Information system interface
with suppliers
Structured and flexible manufacturing
Information system interface
with customer
Concurrent and team working methods/
Continuous training and education of all
``knowledgeable, competent, and empowered people'' and other capabilities related
to product flexibility and new product introductions are given lower priorities. To
cope with ``decreasing new product time-to-market'' (another driver), however, the
capability with the highest priority is ``quick new products time-to-market'' in the
``speed'' category, followed by ``high rate of new products introduction'',
``knowledgeable, competent and empowered people'', and ``co-operation internally
and externally'' in the ``competency'' category. ``Cost-effectiveness'', ``leanness'', and
``product volume flexibility'' take lower priorities on the list. It is perhaps worth
Table III.
Relationship between
drivers and capabilities
Increasing pressure on cost Dec. new prod. time-to-market
Capabilities Wts Capabilities Wts
Cost-effectiveness (competency) 4.1 Quick new products time-to-market
(speed) 4.3
Appropriate technology/sufficient
technological ability (competency) 3.9
High rate of new products introduction
(competency) 3.7
Strategic vision 3.4 Knowledgeable, competent, and
empowered people (competency) 3.7
Products/services quality (competency) 3.4 Co-operation (internal/external,
competency) 3.7
Operations efficiency and effectiveness-
leanness (competency) 3.4
Strategic vision (responsiveness) 3.6
Sensing, perceiving and anticipating
changes (responsiveness) 3.4
People flexibility (flexibility) 3.6
Change management (competency) 3.3 Integration (competency) 3.6
People flexibility (flexibility) 3.3 Appropriate technology/sufficient
technological ability (competence) 3.4
Immediate reaction to change by
effecting them into system (responsive) 3.1
Products and services delivery
quickness and timeliness (speed) 3.4
Co-operation (internal/external,
competency) 3.1
Fast operations time (speed) 3.4
Organisation and organisational issues
flexibility (flexibility) 3.1
Sensing, perceiving and anticipating
changes (responsiveness) 3.3
Fast operations time (speed) 3.0 Immediate reaction to change by
effecting them into system
(responsiveness) 3.3
Recovery from change (responsiveness) 2.9 Products/services quality (competency) 3.3
Product volume flexibility (flexibility) 2.9 Change management (competency) 3.3
Products and services delivery
quickness and timeliness (speed) 2.9
Operations efficiency and effectiveness-
leanness (competency) 3.3
High rate of new products introduction
(competency) 2.7
Product model/configuration flexibility
(flexibility) 3.3
Integration (competency) 2.7 Cost-effectiveness 3.0
Product model/configuration flexibility
(flexibility) 2.7
Product volume flexibility 3.0
Knowledgeable, competent and
empowered people (competency)
2.6 Organisation and organisational issues
Quick new products time to market
(speed) 2.4
Recovery from change 2.9
A methodology
for achieving
noting here that the empowerment of people is not shown as an effective means of
dealing with pressure on cost but is shown to be effective in coping with decreasing
product time-to-market. Another point worth noting is that ``product model/
configuration flexibility'' is considered to be a capability for dealing with decreasing
new product time-to-market, but not with a high priority.
Attempts are also being made to compare successful companies with less
successful ones according to certain criteria. A success factor is considered
when establishing correlation strengths between drivers, capabilities and
providers. This helps to determine best practices in addressing certain drivers.
Validation of the methodology
In order to validate the methodology, further studies were carried out with the
12 companies selected for case studies, where experiences of the participating
companies were used to evaluate the methodology. The proposed tools were
applied to the case companies and the results derived from the tools were
compared with each company's actions and views. A preliminary analysis of
data collected from the studies has been carried out. A general agreement
between suggestions derived from the methodology and those actually adopted
and proven useful was observed. While the details of these studies and the
results obtained are described in a separate publication (Sharifi and Zhang,
2000), some of the findings are summarised below:
The companies' needs for and current levels of agility have been
assessed based on an evaluation of the changes taking place in their
business environment and their available abilities to deal with the
changes. The results from the assessment generally agree with the
views of the companies.
All companies investigated have taken positive actions to recover from
the changes. The actions taken by the companies in responding to the
changes, altogether more than 120 items, generally agree with those
derived using the methodology.
As different companies face different sets of changes, the strategies and
practices adopted in different companies were not the same.
In this paper, a conceptual model for implementing agility in industry has been
presented. Based on the model, a methodology for implementing agile
manufacturing in industry has been proposed. A computer-based
implementation of the methodology has been proposed to help manufacturing
companies use the proposed methodology. An industrial questionnaire survey
involving 1,000 companies from three manufacturing sectors has been carried
out to validate the model and provide necessary data for the implementation of
the methodology. A number of case studies involving 12 companies have been
carried out to complement the questionnaire study and to provide an initial
validation of the methodology. Preliminary results from the case studies show
that the proposed methodology is able to help manufacturing enterprises
formulate strategic policies in their pursuit of agile manufacturing.
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Abstract Purpose – The paper aims to explore how business intelligence (BI), integration and agility influence supply chain performance. Design/methodology/approach – The study was performed by the exploratory sequential mixed method in two phases including meta-synthesis as a qualitative method and survey as a quantitative method. Data were collected through a survey of 369 Iranian companies across various industries. Structural equation modeling was used to test hypotheses. Findings – The results show that BI, integration and agility play an important role in achieving better supply chain performance. In the meantime, BI has the greatest impact on supply chain performance. Additionally, BI has a positive and significant effect on the integration and agility of the supply chain. The study also found that integration has a direct effect on supply chain agility. Originality/value – To the best of the authors’ knowledge, the paper theoretically and empirically presents a new conceptual model of the relationship between BI, integration, agility and supply chain performance. The study helps researchers and practitioners to achieve insights into supply chain performance improvement. Keywords: Business intelligence, Integration, Agility, Supply chain performance Paper type: Research paper
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تحسين مماراسات الرشاقة التنظيمية بجامعة جنوب الوادي
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This document is both a Reference Model and a Case Study. It is intended for the executive, strategic planner, manager, consultant, and business engineer who is looking for a model based on a real example rather than an abstraction. Though there are discussions on the methodology and tools employed in the construction of the model and the application to Remmele, this document is not intended as a guidebook for applying the tools and reference model structure to additional industries or companies—such will be the subject of subsequent documents.
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Purpose Seeks to test the relative importance of various drivers of information‐technology‐related performance, and compare these drivers in the context of using established and emerging technologies. Established technologies include those generally promoted as the European Article Numbering (EAN) system (electronic data interchange (EDI), barcoding, etc.), while the emerging ones are based on the use of the internet. Design/methodology/approach A survey was designed based on previous research and a series of case studies conducted within the membership of EAN Australia. The method of analysis employed was structural equation modelling based on data collected from 553 members of the EAN organisation in Australia. Findings Use of technology enabling business‐to‐business (B2B) e‐commerce was found to provide a potential source of performance improvement, but such improvement is shown to be more a function of the process by which strategy is formulated, and organisational capability, than of the technologies per se . The adoption and use of emerging technologies (such as the internet) are not subject to the same restrictions and impediments traditionally associated with established technologies. Therefore, organisations will find emerging internet‐based technologies easier to implement and to use, but this will not necessarily mean that they will improve performance as a result. Performance will still be determined by effective strategy formulation, a clear understanding and knowledge of the technologies, appropriate application, and prudent change management. Research limitations/implications This research has been conducted in Australia, and restricted to the membership of the EAN organisation. This membership is largely representative of the fast‐moving consumer goods (FMCG) industry. Whether such results would be consistent in other countries and industries would need to be verified through further research. Originality/value Develops and tests an integrated model linking strategy formulation, knowledge, capability, use of technology and performance. Provides valuable insight into why and how technology implementations can be configured for success.
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This paper analyses results from a survey of 962 Australian manufacturing companies in order to identify some of the factors critical for successful agile organizations in managing their supply chains. Analysis of the survey results provided some interesting insights into factors differentiating “more agile” organizations from “less agile” organizations. “More agile” companies from this study can be characterized as more customer focused, and applying a combination of “soft” and “hard” methodologies in order to meet changing customer requirements. They also see the involvement of suppliers in this process as being crucial to their ability to attain high levels of customer satisfaction. The “less agile” group, on the other hand, can be characterized as more internally focused with a bias toward internal operational outcomes. They saw no link between any of the independent variables and innovation, and appear to see technology as more closely linked to the promotion of these operational outcomes than to customer satisfaction. The role of suppliers for this group is to support productivity and process improvement rather than to promote customer satisfaction.
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This paper provides an exploration of the concept and content of agile manufacturing (AM). It describes the nature of the content of AM and synthesises the literature to propose a comprehensive definition of purpose and process. Real agile manufacturing (RAM) is viewed as a strategic process; it is about surviving and prospering in the competitive environment of continuous and unpredictable change by reacting quickly and effectively to changing markets. The paper argues that RAM is evolutionary, in that it is developed from existing systems of management and technologies. However, it is also revolutionary because the full application of RAM involves a departure from existing systems. RAM is shown to be based upon four fundamentals. First, each partner must benefit; thus multiple winners (manufacturers, suppliers, customers) is the objective. Second, integration (recourses, methods, technologies, departments or organisations) is the means of achieving RAM. Third, IT is demonstrated to be an essential condition. Finally, core competence is seen to be the key.
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An evolutionary transformation of business environment, with change as a main characteristic, is taking place. Manufacturing companies, even those operating in relatively stable conditions with good market positions, are facing rapid and often unanticipated changes in their business environment. Agile manufacturing is proposed in response to the circumstances as a solution and is perceived as a vital characteristic that manufacturing companies need to have in order to maintain their competitive advantages in the new order of world business. Each company will respond in a specific and different way to the changing circumstances by deploying its own agile characteristics. Agility in manufacturing may be achieved through the implementation and integration of appropriate practices which provide the required abilities for a company to respond properly to changes. Based on this concept, a methodology for achieving agility in manufacturing organisations is developed. The methodology is applied in two manufacturing companies and data collected from the applications are used to validate the methodology. This paper provides a brief summary of the methodology and details its implementation and validation in the two case study companies. Practices are proposed to support the achievement of agility in the two organisations.
Purpose To review on the literature and contribute a comprehensive model that would identify the criteria for attaining agility and suggest a procedure to successfully implement it in manufacturing arena. Design/methodology/approach The literature dealing with agile manufacturing (AM) criteria were studied. The meaning and definitions of AM were derived. Further, the criteria enunciated in certain papers were identified. These findings were used to design a 20 criteria agile model. Subsequently, its implementation procedure was designed. Findings While reviewing the literature, the following observations were made: time and again, some researchers brought out certain criteria of AM; these criteria do not comprehensively focus towards attaining agility; the researchers who have contributed these criteria have failed to evolve an implementation procedure. Research limitations/implications Contributions of this paper are based on reviewing the literature. Since, no survey in manufacturing arena has been carried out, the 20 criteria agile model and its implementation procedure may suffer from incompatibility problems in manufacturing arena. However, these contributions provide an avenue fro further researching in this direction Practical implications The customers' dynamic demands and the ever increasing intensity of global competition force the practitioners to adopt agile principles. The 20 criteria agile model and its implications procedure would enable the organizations to focus towards attaining agility. This process will prevent the derailment of AM journey and the wastage of time and money spent while moving towards agility Originality/value The study of literature on AM reveals that no researcher has enunciated the exhaustive integration of management and technology‐oriented AM criteria and their implementation feasibilities. Hence, the contribution of this paper is original in the literature world.
Information systems have received special attention in the literature on agile manufacturing. Some authors have rated IS as critical, important and ultimately required for the agile enterprise. However, it is not quite clear the extension or involvement of information systems in achieving and supporting agility in manufacturing. On the other hand, the failure of IS to deliver expected benefits has been documented in different sectors, including manufacturing. The results of a case study involving two SMEs are used to identify clearly the role of information systems within the concept of agility and then used to develop a framework that ensures that information systems provide benefits to manufacturing organisations through enhancing the agility of its manufacturing processes.
An abstract is not available.
International companies are confronted by the challenge of changes in both scale and scope. This challenge emerges due to: technological turbulence, the all pervasive nature of micro-electronics, the trend towards globalization, and changes in competitive relationships. This paper refers to a statement by Peter Drucker that the entrepreneurial task is to search for change. to respond to it, and to exploit it as an opportunity.