What Agile Manufacturing Means for Your Warehouse

Meagan Douglas
Mon, Jun 29, 2015
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Agile manufacturing is a great idea for businesses, but how can the supply chain adapt?

The term "agile manufacturing" refers to processes and methodologies within the manufacturing world that allow companies to remain adaptive in a changing industry. According to the Houston Chronicle, while lean and agile manufacturing processes have different qualities, both have helped manufacturing companies achieve reduced costs, quicker response time and improved customer service. The term came to be in use in the early 1990s. Forbes reported agile strategies actually didn't have roots with manufacturers themselves - it was first accepted by IT professionals within the industry.

Today, in keeping with its IT roots, agile manufacturing is made possible by enterprise resource planning solutions. When companies can more easily respond to customers and streamline their manufacturing processes, they can enjoy reduced costs and, in the long run, higher bottom lines. Software solutions have allowed companies to achieve "disciplined execution and continuous innovation," according to Forbes, which is beneficial for companies to remain competitive and relevant in a quickly changing industry.

How it Works
Agile manufacturers design their production lines with the idea in mind that things change - they want to be able to quickly change processes in the event that new, better ways of manufacturing come along that can propel businesses into higher profits if implemented correctly.

For example, in the pharmaceuticals industry, there has been a lot of talk lately about batch versus continuous manufacturing, according to FiercePharma. In batch, ingredients are added and mixed in groups, which means the process has to start and stop at intervals so that more ingredients can be added. With continuous, however, things move along at a steady pace and don't require processes to be stopped, much like the way food is manufactured. This has the potential to reduce costs, and agile pharmaceutical companies will be more able to adopt continuous practices.

Ultimately, according to the Houston Chronicle, agile manufacturing is focused on business sustainability. When the manufacturing process is able to adapt to new methods and technology, more products can be sold and more business can be conducted. But what happens to the supply chain when your company's agile manufacturing capabilities lead to changes at the production level?

How Mobile Data Collection Can Help
When manufacturing processes are streamlined and easily changeable to accommodate shifts within the industry, warehouses and distribution centers need to be able to keep up with what could become a new influx of products or new warehouse implementations. This is where mobile data collection comes in. When your ERP solution is connected to your data collection software, there is a better chance that your employees will be able to identify and pick items in a more streamlined manner.

Agile companies will need efficient inventory control techniques if they want to be able to stay on top of their own businesses. Changes in the way items are manufactured will impact how much and how quickly items move through the supply chain, and mobile data collection will be an easier, quicker way for warehouse managers to know what's on their shelves.

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