Complex Manufacturers Face More Challenges As Globalization Expands

Complex manufacturers are facing increasing business and global requirements as reflected in the diversity of customers, suppliers and partners, according to the Complex Manufacturing Research Survey. The survey also concluded that additional remote locations and the need for improved 24/7 responsiveness have changed t

Complex manufacturers are facing increasing business and global requirements as reflected in the diversity of customers, suppliers and partners, according to the Complex Manufacturing Research Survey. The survey also concluded that additional remote locations and the need for improved 24/7 responsiveness have changed the communication requirements for complex project-based manufacturers. Complex manufacturers are defined as “other than exclusively repetitive manufacturing processes” including engineer-to-order, made-to-order and assemble-to-order.

Other demands including compliance requirements, and internal and external collaboration are driving the need for data accessibility. According to Stephen Carson, executive vice-president of Visibility Corp., “Data accessibility must include a common set of numbers, historical views and improved analysis.  Internal and external employees all require access to the same data. Flexibility in access and speed to communicate easily is critical with multiple locations. Multiple locations, time zones, currencies, and languages are the norm for many complex manufacturers, placing additional communication challenges on the organization.”

Mobility is crucial to competitiveness among complex manufacturers and cost containment is critical for lean manufacturing. Responsiveness drives higher customer satisfaction and workflow improves organization efficiency; data accessibility drives decision making speed; and consolidation has become increasingly important for mergers and acquisition integration as well as financial compliance. Technology remains critical for the business infrastructure and its supportability; audit ability will continue to grow in importance.

Carson noted that these trends in globalization in the complex manufacturing world drove the .net technology of Visibility. According to Carson, “Technology is the basis on which an ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning) system stands. Having a strong foundation upon which the ERP application is supported allows organizations to operate with confidence in their system infrastructure. It facilitates supportability and growth.”

Engineering and Product Lifecycle Management (EPLM) manages the lifecycle of a product from its conception as a quote, to production, and into field installation. Through the use of EPLM, companies can more effectively and efficiently innovate and manage products and services throughout the entire product life cycle. Complex product manufacturers require robust product data management, continuous engineering and support for cradle-to-grave and cross-domain elements. 

                                            Complex Manufacturers
                                                       2000    2006

Global Customers
                          29%     47%
Global Suppliers                             21%     49%
Global Partners                              20%     46%
Remote Locations                          24%     49%


 “Common data access and efficient transaction handling allows complex manufacturing companies to develop, describe, manage, and communicate information about their products in a global environment,” Carson said.

Ultimately, the ability of ERP solutions, like VISIBILITY.net, to offer improved communication with suppliers, partners, customers and employees through easy-to-use electronic interaction, optimized business processes, and increased responsiveness will enable new levels of achievement throughout the global enterprise.

The Complex Manufacturing Research Survey was conducted in the first quarter of 2006 by TR Cutler, Inc. The 1563 respondents were senior management level executives (CEO, COO, CFO, VP Operations). The data included a wide cross-section of industries, geography, public and private companies, employee size, and annual revenues.

     Thomas R. Cutler is a manufacturing writer and author, and is the lead spokesperson for the ETO Institute (www.etoinstitute.org). He can be contacted at trcutler@trcutlerinc.com

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