National Finnish Technology Agency TEKES has launched a new programme "Concepts of operations". The programme aims to fund development projects within this emerging area in Finnish companies and research institutes. But what are "Concepts of operations"? There has been lot of discussion about manufacturing plants moving to China, India and other developing markets, and the competitiveness western manufacturing has been questioned. New innovations on methods of sourcing, manufacturing and distribution are needed to compete in turbulent ever-changing markets. I am board member of the programme and recently been thinking some good examples of "operations concepts". Here's my two cents on this topic:-
- Henry Ford benchmarked butcheries in Chicago and found the idea of conveyors great for moving heavy objects. This idea among his other great inventions (selling only black colour to improve paint drying process, specialization of operations etc.) changed the whole business of automotive industry. This is an excellent example on production concept.
- Toyota Production Systems is a great philosophy how to manage production. No computers are needed and still all waste of time and resources ("muda") are minimized. Mr. Taiichi Ohno and the fellows developed the concept already half a century ago in Japan. Many other manufacturing philosophies such as Kawasaki Production System have spun off the similar concept.
- Dell Direct - Michaell Dell's built-to-order concept is applied to personal computers, but the same thinking could work in many other industries as well. As matter of fact, make-to-stock is a very poor choice in many cases and just hides problems in the inventory.
- Zara in Spain – Short distance suppliers close to single location production provides fast response chain for a global retail chain. The concept of Zara is a good benchmark for any European manufacturing company.
- Leftfootcompany – Tailored high-end shoes, computerized scanning of feet and web-shop, made in Europe and exported to Asia. Finnish Leftfootcompany is nice example of personalized products.
- Private labels - Brand labeling and OEM is everyday concept in electronics manufacturing. Another field that takes benefit from the same type of concept is food retailing where this mode of operations is called "private labels".
The list is just a draft of my thoughts, but I really think that there plenty of room to add bullets on this. The photo on this post is from a Singapore barber's shop – it shows the potential customers average waiting time – quite nice operations concept in my opinion. Anyway, innovations on logistics can present good possibilities for manufacturing industries.