"Rethinking Operations Strategy in an Age of Digital Manufacturing"
In the late 1960s Wickham Skinner wrote a classic article - Manufacturing: The Missing Link in Corporate Strategy. Published in the Harvard Business Review, this article heralded a stream of research on manufacturing strategy, much of which was devoted to the question of how leaders of manufacturing firms can ensure they configure their manufacturing operations appropriately. While there are different perspectives and nuances, in essence the manufacturing strategy literature introduced three key concepts: (i) competitive priorities, (ii) manufacturing decisions areas – which in turn as sub-categorised as structural and infrastructural decision areas. At its heart the literature on manufacturing strategy argued that investments in manufacturing (typically in the manufacturing decision areas) resulted in manufacturing operations building capabilities which in turn allowed them to deliver against their competitive priorities. If, for example, a manufacturing firm was trying to compete on cost, then investments would be needed to drive productivity and efficiency. If the firm was competing on quality, then investments would be needed to ensure processes operated smoothly and quality was assured. Generally the competitive priorities were defined in terms of quality (doing things right), speed (doing things quickly), dependability (doing things as promised), flexibility (changing what you do) and cost (doing things cheaply).
This presentation will explore the implications of digital technologies for the traditional manufacturing decision areas (and hence for manufacturing strategy). What, for example, does the industrial internet mean for how supply chains are managed? What do new technologies – such as additive manufacturing – mean for location and capacity decisions? How can platforms, including crowdfunding platforms such as kickstarter, be used to inform the new product development process? What does the gig economy mean for employment and staffing? How do platform businesses like Uber and Deliveroo manage quality when they don’t own or directly control many of their operational resources?
Wherever you look in the manufacturing decision areas it becomes clear that digital technologies fundamentally change the nature of the choices that manufacturers face as they seek to build organisational capabilities.
Professor Andy Neely is Pro-Vice-Chancellor: Enterprise and Business Relations at the University of Cambridge, Head of the Institute for Manufacturing (IfM) and Head of the Manufacturing and Management Division of Cambridge University Engineering Department. He is a Fellow of Sidney Sussex College and Founding Director of the Cambridge Service Alliance. He is widely recognized for his work on the servitization of manufacturing, as well as his work on performance measurement and management. Previously he has held appointments at Cranfield University, London Business School, Cambridge University, where he was a Fellow of Churchill College, Nottingham University, where he completed his PhD and British Aerospace. He was Deputy Director of AIM Research – the UK’s management research initiative – from 2003 until 2012 and was elected a Fellow of the British Academy of Management in 2007, a Fellow of the Academy of Social Science in 2008 and a Fellow of the European Operations Management Association in 2009.