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Agile or adaptable? Finding a paradigm for an uncertain world

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Abstract

This paper looks at the way in which, over recent years, paradigms for manufacturing management have evolved as a result of changing economic and environmental circumstances. The lean production concept, devised during the 1980s, proved robust only until the end of the bubble economy in Japan caused firms to re-examine the underlying principles of the lean production paradigm and redesign their production systems to suit the changing circumstances they were facing. Since that time a plethora of new concepts have emerged, most of which have been based on improving the way that firms are able to respond to the uncertainties of the new environment in which they have found themselves operating. The main question today is whether firms should be agile or adaptable. Both concepts imply a measure of responsiveness, but recent changes in the nature of the uncertainties have heightened the debate about what strategies should be adopted in the future.
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Conference Paper
In an increasingly complex world the ability to master changes becomes more and more relevant. Agility, leanness, flexibility, reconfigurability and changeability are frequently highlighted in this context, but usually not in a distinct way. Instead they are often used as synonyms - partially because they are hyped and “in” - which is in fact wrong since they refer to different concepts. This, in turn, confounds the research community due to inaccuracies. By means of a systematic literature review the paper at hand detects the very core of each concept and tries to demerge them. We found out that the terms are, firstly, partially dependent on each other and, secondly, nested.
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This paper deals with three concepts of concern to manufacturing management; agile manufacturing, adaptable production and lean production. These are described and compared within the context of the modern competitive situation in Japan. A survey of Japanese firms is described where the concepts are explored through a number of questions concerned with strategy, action programmes and performance measures. Many companies have responded to the change in economic conditions through a modification of their production operations and by changing their cost structure. The results suggest that companies are trying to realise their cost adaptability through agility enhancement activities.
Article
Full-text available
This paper deals with three concepts of concern to manufacturing management; agile manufacturing, adaptable production and lean production. These are described and compared within the context of the modern competitive situation in Japan. A survey of Japanese firms is described where the concepts are explored through a number of questions concerned with strategy, action programmes and performance measures. Many companies have responded to the change in economic conditions through a modification of their production operations and by changing their cost structure. The results suggest that companies are trying to realise their cost adaptability through agility enhancement activities.
Article
Full-text available
Describes the basic concept of lean production and the recent trend in Japanese manufacturing which has been towards a cycle comprising price competition, cost reduction, a proliferation of new products, higher fixed costs, increased break even points and lower profits. Explains how Japan’s recent recession has caused the cycle to be broken and considers how factors relating to the external and internal environment have influenced the viability of lean production within Japan’s emerging competitive climate. Uses case studies of four manufacturing plants to identify problems, solutions and the need for a new approach to production systems design where costs are more sensitive to changes in demand. Proposes the concept of adaptable production as an approach which can accommodate to greater changes in demand than lean production.
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