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Agile Manufacturing: Forging New Frontiers

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Agile Manufacturing: Forging New Frontiers - Preface

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Agile Manufacturing

Paul T Kidd

ISBN 0-201-63163-6 (Hardbound)
Publisher: Addison Wesley
Price: See buy on-line link
Publication Date: June 1994

We stand today at the beginning of a new era in manufacturing. We are about to forge a new frontier. A new concept, agile manufacturing, promises to completely transform our manufacturing industries.

However, although agile manufacturing is a relatively new term, and we have yet to fully define the concepts, it seems from the many articles that are now appearing in our journals and trade magazines that our manufacturing enterprises are already practicing agile manufacturing. But are they? It seems to me that agile manufacturing is being interpreted as lean production, or flexible manufacturing, or computer integrated manufacturing (CIM). This is wrong.

My primary aim in writing this book was to contribute to the process of defining agile manufacturing, and to dispel any beliefs that it is just another way of describing lean production, flexible manufacturing, or CIM. To me, it represents a quantum leap forward in manufacturing. Instead of just chasing after the Japanese by copying their techniques, we are trying to achieve a competitive lead by doing something they are not doing (yet).

Because agile manufacturing is new, and as yet, untried, I have not presented case studies of implementations. Many of our corporations today are undergoing massive transformations — re-engineering business processes, flattening hierarchies, empowering people, implementing lean production concepts, and so on. The list is almost endless. But none of these massive transformations, on their own, or taken collectively constitutes the implementation of agile manufacturing.

Agile manufacturing is something that our corporations have yet to fully comprehend, never mind implement. It is the way business will be conducted in the next century. It is not yet a reality. Of course, this situation will change very rapidly. Over the next few years we can expect to see agile manufacturing more fully defined, and a few pioneering corporations moving into the frontier of implementation.

It seems to me, however, that we are being held back from this quantum leap and exploring this new frontier by the baggage of our traditions and conventions, and our accepted values and beliefs. I believe that if we are to achieve agility in our manufacturing enterprises, we should fully understand the nature of our existing cultures, values and traditions. We should achieve this understanding as a prelude to their consignment to the garbage can of historically redundant ideas.

However, in writing this book, I also had in mind the need to begin to map out the way forward. I firmly believe that agile manufacturing implies a revolution in the way we go about designing and implementing manufacturing systems, technologies, and organization, and in the way we conduct our business. I also believe that it has radical implications for our technologies. In the future we will be devoting much of our efforts to developing systems that will lever the skills and knowledge of our people.


This book is aimed at a diverse group of people: chief executive officers, managers, manufacturing strategists and integrators, and engineers in manufacturing industry. It is primarily of use to those engaged in the broad areas of manufacturing strategy and systems design, integration and implementation.
The book covers a wide range of subject material, including management accounting, technology, psychology, organizational science, systems theory, design methods, software engineering and manufacturing strategy. I can guarantee that a specialist in any of these fields will be able to find fault with some aspects of the text. But to do so would be to miss the point completely. The book is not aimed at specialists, but at those who have to trancend the narrow specialisms of monoprofessionals, to gain a broad picture of the whole enterprise in all relevant dimensions, taking into account all the interrelationships between them.

The contents will also be useful to those engaged in determining research policy, and those involved in manufacturing research. Such people need to begin to question whether what they are doing is right for agile manufacturing.

Much of the material in the book is based on the results of investigations that have been undertaken over a period of ten years. Some of the material is, of course, not new. The way that it has all been combined, related and applied is new.


Reflecting the diverse readership, the book is structured in self contained units. A short introduction sets the scene for the remaining chapters.

Part I focuses on providing an overview of agile manufacturing. Chapter 1 provides a definition of agile manufacturing, and considers the nature of the emerging competitive environment and the business case for agile manufacturing. A conceptual framework is also proposed along with some primary generic features. Chapter 2 deals with what I have called the four core concepts of agile manufacturing.

Part II of the book is concerned with understanding the revolutionary changes implied by agile manufacturing. Chapter 3 provides an overview of the types of changes that we must face up to. In Chapter 4, the nature of our existing management accounting paradigm is described. Changing this paradigm is a key leverage point for any long term change strategy. The nature of our existing organizational, control, technological and design paradigms are considered in Chapter 5.

The third part of the book deals with the process of designing agile manufacturing enterprises. This covers several issues: the concept of agile manufacturing enterprise design (Chapter 6), the process by which we need to design our enterprises (Chapter 7), interdisciplinary design (Chapter 8) and the question of management accountingand investment appraisal for agile manufacturing (Chapter 9).

Part IV focuses on the question of skill and knowledge enhancing technologies. Chapter 10 examines our traditional technology oriented approaches, and introduces what I have called a skill oriented approach. A conceptual framework for skill and knowledge enhancing technologies is also presented. Chapter 11 presents a detailed case study based on computer based technologies for machine tool systems.

Finally Part V provides an overview of issues, problems, research needs and likely future developments (Chapter 12).

I hope that readers will find the book interesting and stimulating, and that it will encourage people to learn more about agile manufacturing, and actively participate in the forging of this new frontier.


The copyright of Figures 1.1, 1.8 and 6.3 belongs to Manufacturing Knowledge, Inc. They are reproduced with permission. These figures may be reproduced provided that attribution is made to Manufacturing Knowledge, Inc. and their appearance in this book.

The copyright of Figure 3.9 belongs to Digital Equipment Corporation and I am grateful to Dr. Charles Savage for his permission to reproduce this diagram.

The copyright of Figures 2.3, 3.6, 6.1, 6.2, 8.10, 10.1, 10.2, 10.3 and 12.1 belongs to Cheshire Henbury. They are reproduced with permission.

The copyright of Figures 9.1 and 9.2 belongs to CAM-I. These figures are taken from The CAM-I Glossary of Activity-Based Management (1991) (Raffish N. and Turney P.B.B., eds.), Arlington: CAM-I. They are reproduced in this book under the copyright permission granted in the above publication.

In Chapter 6, I refer to a tool called HITOP. HITOP is a registered trademark of the Industrial Technology Institute, Ann Arbor, MI.

Early work on the development of skill and knowledge enhancing technologies was undertaken in collaboration with Professor Howard H. Rosenbrock at the Control Systems Centre, UMIST, Manchester, England. Professor Rosenbrock was also one of the first engineers to challenge our traditional manufacturing paradigms. His vision of a different type of manufacturing, based on the enhancement of human skills and knowledge, inspired the writing of this book.

I should like to acknowledge the help of various people with the writing of this book. Thanks are due to Dr. Charles Savage and Professor Jim Browne who both reviewed the first draft and made constructive and detailed criticisms. Thanks are also due to Tim Pitts of Addison-Wesley for his help and suggestions for transforming the reviewers' comments into a revised and much improved manuscript.
Finally, I would like to express my thanks to my wife, Judith, and my three children Lucy, Tara and Dale, for putting up with my obsession to complete this book on time.

Paul T. Kidd
June 1994
Manufacturing Knowledge Inc.
Louisville, KY


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