Agile manufacturing: pros and cons?

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Agile manufacturing uses modular parts and automation to increase customer satisfaction by enabling faster and more customized production. It reduces inventory levels and costs, but requires extensive preparation and a high initial investment. Many companies are adopting this strategy to meet consumer demand for instant gratification.

Agile manufacturing is an enterprise manufacturing strategy that uses modular parts and automation, rather than an assembly line model, to increase customer satisfaction by enabling goods to be manufactured and delivered faster and with greater customization. This manufacturing design has many benefits, including the ability to switch product types quickly and the ability to maintain smaller inventory levels. However, agile manufacturing also has disadvantages, such as extensive preparation and a high initial investment.

Many manufacturing companies are moving to an agile manufacturing model to better meet consumers’ desire for instant gratification. The automation required to build a product in an agile manufacturing environment translates into fast production lead times, better serving the demand for a particular item. Retailers and distributors powered by agile manufacturing processes will have a large stock of desired products ready for consumers to purchase, rather than having to place backorders, which can frustrate enthusiastic shoppers.

The agile manufacturing strategy employs modular construction for all products; as a result, each product can be broken down into its individual modular components for easier customization or modification. Because it is often possible to avoid creating new designs and parts, lead times and costs per unit tend to be lower in this form of manufacturing. An older product can be refurbished into a new form; some examples would be changing the uniquely colored housing on a mobile phone or adding a camera to an existing product.

Inventory levels are significantly reduced with this manufacturing method as most of the tasks are performed by machines; there are no extra pieces to save for later use from a manual production line. A smaller inventory results in lower fees and supply taxes, which directly reduce the cost of each product. This cost reduction allows you to retail the final item at a highly competitive price, leading to higher overall profits.

One of the major drawbacks of agile manufacturing is the preparation it requires. Each automated machine must be purchased and programmed for the specific items of modular production. Suppliers, such as raw material companies, must be contractually bound to the manufacturing company to ensure that a constant flow of product is available for the manufacturing processes. Additionally, employees must be prepared by regularly maintaining machines to prevent unexpected breakdowns.

Along with preparation, initial start-up costs can be a barrier. A company has to spend a significant amount of money to buy machines and materials to start the agile manufacturing process. Many companies are out of cash for such a large initial investment; however, for those who do, a successful production line will pay back on investment in a few years.

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