Eyes on the floor, eyes on the future
Operational visibility is necessary for make-to-order manufacturers to respond to rapidly changing market conditions. It's not enough to know that you sold 10,000 personal computers; you need to understand the various product attributes. For example, what kind of memory, what kind of keyboard and which peripherals are being sold with each PC?
Business analytics, reporting and monitoring are helping provide key operational visibility. "Software applications complement lean manufacturing with improved data visibility, speeding information flow for problem resolution, design changes, quality issues and changing customer demand." (AMR Report, January 2002, "Enhancing Lean Manufacturing with Software Applications" by Michael Burkett) Through real-time visibility of key metrics on how the business is performing — important for both business agility and continuous process improvement — businesses can track, monitor, measure and optimize processes in real-time to quickly identify operational bottlenecks and fine-tune processes "on the fly" for optimal results. This capability also helps manufacturers identify which products or processes are most profitable.
Integration from the shop floor to the top floor and beyond
As the manufacturing industry has become more global in scope, the make-to-order enterprise has, too, and today often extends beyond geographic boundaries. Tightly integrated systems across the enterprise, which are required to support these widespread operations and localization features, including local character and currency support and fluid exchange rate support, are becoming more important than ever before. Integration and collaboration capabilities enable companies to synch their manufacturing operations globally to deploy parts and communicate with customers and suppliers across the enterprise. It is vital in the make-to-order market to capture the right information, as even the smallest mistakes can be costly downstream.
IT systems that fit the task at hand
Make-to-order enterprises require flexible, real-time information technology systems that can plan and control all resources needed to process customer orders in a just-in-time environment without the need for overnight processing. These include a strong planning and scheduling engine to ensure the correct amounts of human, machine and material resources are being estimated and allocated to optimize throughput. Also required is a comprehensive cost accounting package that supports unique inventory management and costing requirements. Additionally, the system should support so-called "hybrid" requirements for make-to-stock products, such as spares and ongoing service.
Communication is king
Supplier and customer relationships reign supreme in the make-to-order manufacturing environment. Dynamic sourcing capabilities are necessary to deliver specifications to suppliers, and to receive and respond to requests for proposals (RFPs). Because customer satisfaction and service is key to the success of the small to midsize manufacturer, strong cusomer relationship management (CRM) capabilities are a must. Sharing customer communication with the entire organization ensures the personalized attention and timely responsiveness to customer inquiries, ultimately resulting in more satisfied customers. Moreover, communication is also key to building an empowered workforce, where information is shared and decision-making is pushed down to the "lowest levels."
Many make-to-order manufacturers, including TEAM Industries, Aar-Kel Moulds, Ltd., and Standex Corp., are seeing that these best practices are key to delivering a real-world return on investment (ROI).
Driving New Sales Opportunities
TEAM Industries is a make-to-order manufacturer that is really on a "roll." In its postition as designer, developer and manufacturer of power-train and drive-line components for vehicles in the light utility, agricultural, automotive, lawn and turf care, and snowmobile and all-terrain-vehicle (ATV) markets, TEAM produces millions of assemblies and components to exact blueprint specifications every year.
The company's customers include Polaris, Honda, John Deere, Kawasaki and Yamaha, among others. In business since 1967, TEAM Industries today employs more than 1,100 highly skilled employees in its six manufacturing facilities throughout rural Minnesota.