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Manufacturing Excellence, Is It A Myth Or Can It Be Achieved?

By Vivek Bhachawat

It has been a common belief amongst top officials around that excellence in any operation can be achieved only by a paradigm shift in business outlook and through reengineering of the processes. I believe that although the above perspective is one way of looking at improvement, it is very disruptive and should be used only when the business needs disruptive innovation or is in dire need of a complete and comprehensive turnaround. A successful business would consider pursuing excellence in diverse ways depending on the extent of uncertainty of the external environment and the ability of the internal capabilities to meet or exceed the expectations from the external players.
Our focus today will be more on the manufacturing part of business and the pursuit of excellence in manufacturing through product and process improvement. Manufacturing in present times has become very different from the way it was perceived and operated in the previous century. It is still a strong sector and continues to be the driving force behind innovation and R&D efforts. However, manufacturing has transformed from a provider of mass employment to being the seeker of technically skilled and specialized executives and workers. The volumes of workforce have reduced and the influence of Technology and IT is on the rise, even in developed countries. This means that both the definition and the means to achieve excellence in manufacturing have changed. Now, excellence goes beyond achieving supreme quality and customer satisfaction, it is more about the overall efficiency and effectiveness of the entire manufacturing endeavor of the organization.
I make the above arguments based on recent researches which show that the percentage of services offered by manufacturing companies has increased to 40% in the USA alone and an organization pursuing excellence in manufacturing has to consider all aspects of the business and not just manufacturing. This means that an organization which wants to become excellent has to view/control its entire process in an integrated manner and use information technology and Big Data Analytics to improve all aspects of its business. Companies, whose core competence lies in manufacturing innovative products faster and cheaper than their competition, achieve excellence through IT applications such as Manufacturing Excellence which are capable of providing information based on process metrics that are valued by the market. Such IT applications provide end-to-end visibility to process owners and reduce the need of drastic measures to achieve excellence. Manufacturing Excellence applications perform tasks that range from Quality Management to Training and Appraisal.
I strongly believe that IT has truly empowered organization and due to its flexible nature it provides organizations with the opportunity to achieve excellence. Manufacturing Excellence applications work well when they are modeled to the process and cover all important metrics. Such applications lead to excellence and make the process more agile, this agility is a requisite for survival in modern markets. An organization that is able to implement process specific excellence applications will be able to use its internal capabilities better and be able to match the ever-changing expectations of the market. I do not mean to undermine the importance of disruptive innovations, but want to stress the fact that it should be pursued when required and not as the only mean to achieve excellence. Process based excellence is sustainable and since it is achieved using IT applications it is also flexible and proactive. Organizations of the world who wish to be excellent in their business, should seriously consider Manufacturing Excellence as a way to achieve it.Excellence is a myth only for organizations which do not realize the true potential of their capabilities and remain indifferent to IT applications.

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