Critical Success Factors for the Make-to-order Enterprise

With manufacturing demand at a lull, smart companies are making the most of this opportunity to position themselves to take full advantage of the eventual economic upturn. Here's how.


The company is currently tapping Internet-based technology to expand the reach of its products to address and service new markets. Introduced just last year, the company's retail division targets ATV and snowmobile enthusiasts who desire top-of-the-line custom components that far exceed the durability and strength of mass-produced factory components.

The basis of TEAM's retail division is a Web site that offers distributors and dealers the ability to view product catalogs, place orders and check the status of orders online. Additionally, customers can also locate authorized TEAM Industries dealers throughout the United States, Canada, Finland, Italy and Sweden for service and support.

While the project is still in its initial roll out stage, TEAM believes the initiative will go a long way toward streamlining processes, lowering overall transaction costs and expanding its network of dealers.

Innovate to Differentiate or Die

Now in its 25th year of operation, Aar-Kel Moulds Ltd. is a producer of high-quality plastic injection moulds and die casting dies, mainly for the automotive sector. The company's tooling is used by the major auto manufacturers and has been instrumental in the development of new models such as the Chevy Avalanche, Buick Rendezvous and Chrysler PT Cruiser.

Aggressive schedule requests and costing demands are the norm in the mould supply business. To continue to compete and respond to increasing demands, Aar-Kel needed to fight back with information — real-time data that could deliver true product costing and enable the company to accurately forecast demand, manage work flow and allocate resources to meet critical delivery dates.

Recently, the company implemented an integrated e-manufacturing system that provides the tools and data access to accurately determine engineering time and plant capacity availability. Aside from providing the necessary visibility for efficient project costing, the system also provides visibility to view and track customer change requests — ensuring the information is conveyed throughout the enterprise and at every crucial step in the manufacturing process.

This enhanced operational visibility has enabled Aar-Kel to improve customer response times and satisfaction in responding to status inquiries. Additionally, it has given Aar-Kel a significant leg up on the competition; by providing the company with the tools to ensure tracking and auditing of processes, Aar-Kel is now able to meet key contract requirements that are increasingly becoming mandated by a growing number of companies.

Tapping Into Business Intelligence

Headquartered in Salem, N.H., Standex Corp. is a multi-national mixed-mode manufacturer with 90 plants and 48,000 products that span the range from custom hydraulic cylinders and missile nose cones, to fine china and religious literature. The company has a long and successful record of buying well-run businesses, capitalizing on the strengths of the businesses they acquire and integrating them into the corporate family for maximum synergy.

Key to achieving this synergy is the company's use of technology to integrate newly acquired companies quickly into the fold. For example, to improve management reporting, Standex is using a business intelligence (BI) application to aggregate and analyze operational data. Through visibility of financial results and other key performance indicators, Standex can determine how each business segment is performing and make changes as needed to produce optimal results.

In addition to manufacturing sites all over North America, Standex has operations in Europe and Asia, so its manufacturing software must "go the distance," with comprehensive multi-national capabilities. For Standex, success means its management software must be properly "localized," so it contains the functionality needed to address local customs, process, regulations and ways of doing business, before it is rolled out in each country.

Technology Takes a Stand

Change is the hallmark of the make-to-order manufacturing industry, driven by the increasing need to respond to customer pressures for shorter lead times, greater customization and enhanced supplier performance. Fortunately, technology — as never before — is coming to the aid as a key enabler of increased agility, giving rise to best practices that are leading the way to increased profitability and reduced cycle times.

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