Learning to Change: Opportunities to Improve the Performance of Smaller Manufacturers

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Manufacturing firms--large and small--face massive change and adjustment as they move from a stable, fault-tolerant environment of long production runs to a volatile world in which production runs are short; product characteristics are changing constantly; and defect-free, on-time production at decreasing prices is a condition for survival. The necessary changes in the production organization include everything from the layout of the shop floor to the distribution of authority between managers and workers. The magnitude of these changes threatens to overwhelm the managerial capacities of firms, regardless of their size.
This study examines the particularly vulnerable situation of small and mid-size manufacturers and considers ways in which to help them undertake the many changes and adjustments necessary. These include assimilating the new tools, disciplines, and philosophy of lean manufacturing; embracing new ways of delegating responsibilities; and developing new kinds of partnerships among customers, suppliers, and employees.

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