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

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  • 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)

Abstract

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.

Suggested Citation

  • Seyed M. Iravani & Mark P. Van Oyen & Katharine T. Sims, 2005. "Structural Flexibility: A New Perspective on the Design of Manufacturing and Service Operations," Management Science, INFORMS, vol. 51(2), pages 151-166, February.
  • Handle: RePEc:inm:ormnsc:v:51:y:2005:i:2:p:151-166
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    File URL: http://dx.doi.org/10.1287/mnsc.1040.0333
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    Cited by:

    1. repec:gam:jsusta:v:10:y:2018:i:2:p:572-:d:133124 is not listed on IDEAS
    2. Manikas, Andrew S. & Patel, Pankaj C., 2016. "Managing sales surprise: The role of operational slack and volume flexibility," International Journal of Production Economics, Elsevier, vol. 179(C), pages 101-116.
    3. Chou, Mabel C. & Chua, Geoffrey A. & Teo, Chung-Piaw, 2010. "On range and response: Dimensions of process flexibility," European Journal of Operational Research, Elsevier, vol. 207(2), pages 711-724, December.
    4. Seyed M. R. Iravani & Bora Kolfal & Mark P. Van Oyen, 2007. "Call-Center Labor Cross-Training: It's a Small World After All," Management Science, INFORMS, vol. 53(7), pages 1102-1112, July.
    5. Jörn Grahl & Michael Schneider & David Francas, 2010. "A Problem-Specific and Effective Metaheuristic for Flexibility Design," Working Papers 1001, Gutenberg School of Management and Economics, Johannes Gutenberg-Universität Mainz, revised 28 Jan 2010.
    6. Francas, David & Kremer, Mirko & Minner, Stefan & Friese, Markus, 2009. "Strategic process flexibility under lifecycle demand," International Journal of Production Economics, Elsevier, vol. 121(2), pages 427-440, October.
    7. Wallace J. Hopp & Seyed M. R. Iravani & Wendy Lu Xu, 2010. "Vertical Flexibility in Supply Chains," Management Science, INFORMS, vol. 56(3), pages 495-502, March.
    8. Oliver Holschke & Jannis Rake & Philipp Offermann & Udo Bub, 2010. "Improving Software Flexibility for Business Process Changes," Business & Information Systems Engineering: The International Journal of WIRTSCHAFTSINFORMATIK, Springer;Gesellschaft für Informatik e.V. (GI), vol. 2(1), pages 3-13, February.
    9. Achal Bassamboo & Ramandeep S. Randhawa & Jan A. Van Mieghem, 2010. "Optimal Flexibility Configurations in Newsvendor Networks: Going Beyond Chaining and Pairing," Management Science, INFORMS, vol. 56(8), pages 1285-1303, August.
    10. Yang, Liu & Ng, C.T., 2014. "Flexible capacity strategy with multiple market periods under demand uncertainty and investment constraint," European Journal of Operational Research, Elsevier, vol. 236(2), pages 511-521.
    11. repec:tkp:ijsrsy:v:2:y:2012:i:2:p:73-91 is not listed on IDEAS
    12. Chua, Geoffrey A. & Chen, Shaoxiang & Han, Zhiguang, 2016. "Hub and Chain: Process Flexibility Design in Non-Identical Systems Using Variance Information," European Journal of Operational Research, Elsevier, vol. 253(3), pages 625-638.
    13. Ganter, Alois & Hecker, Achim, 2013. "Deciphering antecedents of organizational innovation," Journal of Business Research, Elsevier, vol. 66(5), pages 575-584.
    14. Olivella, Jordi & Nembhard, David, 2016. "Calibrating cross-training to meet demand mix variation and employee absence," European Journal of Operational Research, Elsevier, vol. 248(2), pages 462-472.
    15. Dipankar Bose & A. K. Chatterjee & Samir Barman, 2016. "Towards dominant flexibility configurations in strategic capacity planning under demand uncertainty," OPSEARCH, Springer;Operational Research Society of India, vol. 53(3), pages 604-619, September.
    16. Schneider, Michael & Grahl, Jörn & Francas, David & Vigo, Daniele, 2013. "A problem-adjusted genetic algorithm for flexibility design," International Journal of Production Economics, Elsevier, vol. 141(1), pages 56-65.
    17. Braun, Corina & Hadwich, Karsten, 2016. "Complexity of internal services: Scale development and validation," Journal of Business Research, Elsevier, vol. 69(9), pages 3508-3522.
    18. Henao, César Augusto & Ferrer, Juan Carlos & Muñoz, Juan Carlos & Vera, Jorge, 2016. "Multiskilling with closed chains in a service industry: A robust optimization approach," International Journal of Production Economics, Elsevier, vol. 179(C), pages 166-178.
    19. Tianhu Deng & Zuo-Jun Max Shen, 2013. "Process Flexibility Design in Unbalanced Networks," Manufacturing & Service Operations Management, INFORMS, vol. 15(1), pages 24-32, April.
    20. Marzieh ShahmariChatghieh & Harri Haapasalo & Anyanitha Distanont, 2013. "A Comparison of R&D Supply Chains and Service and Manufacturing Supply Chains," International Journal of Synergy and Research, ToKnowPress, vol. 2(2), pages 73-91.
    21. Yu, Dennis Z. & Tang, Sammi Y. & Niederhoff, Julie, 2011. "On the benefits of operational flexibility in a distribution network with transshipment," Omega, Elsevier, vol. 39(3), pages 350-361, June.
    22. Seyed M. R. Iravani & Vijayalakshmi Krishnamurthy, 2007. "Workforce Agility in Repair and Maintenance Environments," Manufacturing & Service Operations Management, INFORMS, vol. 9(2), pages 168-184, January.
    23. Marzieh Shahmari Chatghieh & Harri Haapasalo & Anyanitha Distanont, 2013. "Comparing Manufacturing and Services Sourcing against R&D Sourcing," Diversity, Technology, and Innovation for Operational Competitiveness: Proceedings of the 2013 International Conference on Technology Innovation and Industrial Management, ToKnowPress.
    24. Patrick Afflerbach & Gregor Kastner & Felix Krause & Maximilian Röglinger, 2014. "The Business Value of Process Flexibility," Business & Information Systems Engineering: The International Journal of WIRTSCHAFTSINFORMATIK, Springer;Gesellschaft für Informatik e.V. (GI), vol. 6(4), pages 203-214, August.
    25. Gnanlet, Adelina & Gilland, Wendell G., 2014. "Impact of productivity on cross-training configurations and optimal staffing decisions in hospitals," European Journal of Operational Research, Elsevier, vol. 238(1), pages 254-269.

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