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Lasting improvements in manufacturing performance: in search of a new theory

Author: De Meyer, Arnoud ; Ferdows, KasraINSEAD Area: Technology and Operations ManagementIn: Journal of Operations Management, vol. 9, no. 2, April 1990 Language: EnglishDescription: p. 168-184.Type of document: INSEAD ArticleNote: Please ask the Library for this articleAbstract: The fundamental premise of production management is one of focus. To be successful, a manufacturer has to choose between the capabilities of cost efficiency, quality, dependability and flexibility, and focus all its attention and resources on pursuing this capability. Yet one sees more and more, world class manufacturers who seem to be successful by pursuing a strategy based on a combination of two or more of these capabilities. How can one explain this divergence between the prevailing paradigm and practice. It is our contention that the nature of the trade-offs among manufacturing capabilities is more complex than has been assumed. An alternative theory is proposed, namely that those manufacturers who create deep and lasting manufacturing capabilities follow a pattern of allocation of efforts and resources that is built on the assumption that these capabilities are cumulative: lasting capabilities are not built at the expense of each other, but upon each other, following a specific pattern of quality.
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The fundamental premise of production management is one of focus. To be successful, a manufacturer has to choose between the capabilities of cost efficiency, quality, dependability and flexibility, and focus all its attention and resources on pursuing this capability. Yet one sees more and more, world class manufacturers who seem to be successful by pursuing a strategy based on a combination of two or more of these capabilities. How can one explain this divergence between the prevailing paradigm and practice. It is our contention that the nature of the trade-offs among manufacturing capabilities is more complex than has been assumed. An alternative theory is proposed, namely that those manufacturers who create deep and lasting manufacturing capabilities follow a pattern of allocation of efforts and resources that is built on the assumption that these capabilities are cumulative: lasting capabilities are not built at the expense of each other, but upon each other, following a specific pattern of quality.

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