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Structural Flexibility: A New Perspective on the Design of Manufacturing and Service Operations

  • Seyed M. Iravani


    (Department of Industrial Engineering and Management Sciences, Northwestern University, Evanston, Illinois 60208)

  • Mark P. Van Oyen


    (School of Business Administration, Loyola University Chicago, Chicago, Illinois 60611)

  • Katharine T. Sims


    (Department of Industrial Engineering and Management Sciences, Northwestern University, Evanston, Illinois 60208)

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    In this paper, we present a new perspective on flexibility in manufacturing and service operations by exploring a type of operational flexibility that we term Üstructural flexibility (SF).Ý We focus on strategic-level issues of how flexibility can be created by using multipurpose resources such as cross-trained labor, flexible machines, or flexible factories. The proposed structural flexibility method uses the structure of the capability pattern to generate indices that quantify the ability of a system to respond to variability in its environment. Simulations of serial and parallel queueing networks provide evidence that this index is useful in predicting the performance rank of alternative designs for implementing multifunctionality in the face of variability. The proposed methodology supports managerial insight into structural design of manufacturing and service systems at the strategic level.

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    Article provided by INFORMS in its journal Management Science.

    Volume (Year): 51 (2005)
    Issue (Month): 2 (February)
    Pages: 151-166

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    Handle: RePEc:inm:ormnsc:v:51:y:2005:i:2:p:151-166
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