Flexible capacity allows an organization to respond to many types of demand fluctuations. An ever-increasing number of organizations are using this concept to create a competitive edge. Being able to easily make changes to the product or production volume allows them to respond quickly to shifts in market demand.
Supporting this requires the ability to operate manufacturing equipment at different production rates, starting and stopping the operations at will, and to have the ability to vary staffing levels and hours of work dependent on the demand. This flexibility is comprised primarily of the following abilities:
1)The ability to produce a variety of products on the same equipment and processes,
2)The ability to produce the same products on a variety of different equipment and processes,
3)The ability to produce new products on existing machines
4) The ability of the equipment to accommodate design changes in the products being manufactured.
The resilient organization uses the first two concepts to mitigate unexpected disruptions, the latter two to accommodate the disruptions caused by new products and designs. Being able to produce products in multiple ways, using different equipment, and process allows the manufacturing demand to be transfer to another manufacturing process when there are problems with the originally scheduled line.
The Risks of Not Having Flexible Capacity
In today’s environment of utilizing a facility to its maximum, this most likely will cause an overloaded capacity situation on the new line. This then becomes another scheduling and optimization problem, involving relevant questions such as which lines are capable of producing the product, what are their production rates (higher, lower than the original schedule) and staff availability in order to be able to shift priorities in order to accommodate the new demand and still satisfy currently scheduled demand.
How Organizations Can Cope in the Midst of Interruptions
Of course, depending on the type of interruption, it might be possible to run the line at a slower rate than originally scheduled. This would, of course, impact any other products scheduled on the line, any maintenance scheduled (since the line would be in operation), and potentially the staffing requirements.
In a multi-plant environment, more options are available, depending on if there is an overlap in production capabilities between the various plants. When there is a disruption in production at a plant the demand can be spread and transferred between other plants in the organization’s network. As more options are available to mitigate the interruption, determining the solution becomes more complicated. With multiple plants as part of the solution, visibility into their production schedules and capacities is essential, raw materials requirements need to be adjusted (the materials now will have to be delivered to the new production plants), transportation requirements need to change to get the materials there, and the product to the customers.
Resilient Organizations are More Flexible
As one can see, organizations that prioritize resilience are certainly more flexible and nimble in the way they operate. With increasing product proliferation, reduced unit demand volumes and next-day delivery expectations, among other considerations flexibility in operations, service and supply chain capacity have become an important focal area for organizations that need every edge in the midst of ever-changing competitive and manufacturing pressures.