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What is Agile Manufacturing?

To response quickly to the volatile demand and high variety of products, it is advisable for the manufacturing companies to adopt agile manufacturing to gain the competitive advantage. The concept of agile manufacturing was introduced by a group of industry and academic scholars gathered at the Iacocca Institute of Lehigh University, USA in 1991 as a best scheme to strive for in such a fluctuating global market (Hormozi, 2001) . As a result, they produced a two-volume report entitled 21st Century Manufacturing Enterprise Strategy (Nagel et al., 1991) . This report was focused on the competitive infrastructure, the features of agile manufacturing enterprises, components and potential mechanisms of agility. Cao and Dowlatshahi (2005) support that agile manufacturing is a competitive strategy of whoever want to develop and exploit capabilities to survive and thrive in a rapid and unpredictable business environment change, driven by customer-designed products and services.

Definition of Agile Manufacturing

There have been many scholars proposing the definition of Agile Manufacturing. Here are some.

Iacocca Institute (1991)
A manufacturing system with extraordinary capability to meet the rapidly changing needs of marketplace. A system that can shift quickly among product models or between product lines, ideally in real-time response to customer demand.
Kidd (1994)
Agile manufacturing is an entire system integrating synthesised joint venturing organisation, highly trained employees and advanced technology to response nimbly to quickly changing needs of customers with high quality and customised products. An interdisciplinary design methodology is strongly required to achieve the integration of enterprise, employee and technology.
Chan and Zhang (2001)
An agile manufacturing system is a system that allows flexibility not only in producing a variety of parts, but also in changing the system itself, which is different from flexible manufacturing systems. This flexibility embodies changes in the machines, the control algorithms and structure, the system software, and the system arrangement to adapt the system functionality and capacity to respond to changing market demands. Thus, this system should be open-ended which allows the system to be reconfigured quickly and reliably to accommodate future changed products.

 

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