The manufacturing profile of flexible and low-cost producers: an empiral study
Since the introduction of the concepts of lean manufacturing, agility and mass customization it is questioned to what extent the trade-off between cost and flexibility still holds. It has been the objective of our research to test the trade-off theory empirically using the data of the International Manufacturing Strategy Survey (IMSS). Our research confirms the well accepted manufacturing profile of low cost producers, which typically use a line process, and of flexible producers, which typically produce in a job shop. However, we also observe that some companies manage to overcome the cost/flexibility trade-off, by introducing the concept of postponed manufacturing. These companies are characterized by an assembly-to-order policy of standardized semi-finished products, produced in a line process. Flexibility and low cost are thus obtained by playing with the position of the decoupling point.
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