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Professors define and describe flow manufacturing

Brush and Maritan write that flow manufacturing "allows a plant to develop its manufacturing capabilities of quality, flexibility and delivery speed with positive feedback on cost and efficiency. Accordingly, it can change the trade-offs inherent in traditional scale- and cost-focused approaches to manufacturing.

"The implementation of flow manufacturing in a plant involves the redesign of manufacturing processes to synchronize and balance them. Product designs are made more modular and a pull inventory system is introduced. Small quantities of components and products are produced frequently, as demand dictates. In its idealized form, products are produced to customer order rather than in batch to a forecast. The performance benefits to the plant are reduced manufacturing cycle times, minimized work in process inventory, higher first-time quality and more reliable delivery to customers. Implementing flow manufacturing requires changes to all elements of the value chain from supplier management to customer relationships, and to the philosophy underlying the production system. ...

"Flow manufacturing is a practice designed to affect all parts of an organization. It consists of many different routines operating at multiple organizational levels to integrate both technological knowledge about 'how to produce goods and services' (Bohn, 1994: 61) and managerial knowledge. As such, flow manufacturing can be best characterized as both a technical practice and an administrative one (Damanpour and Evan, 1984) with the technical and administrative elements highly interrelated. Teece, et al. (1997) cite flow manufacturing (lean production) as an example of a productive system with high interdependency among shop floor practices and higher-order managerial processes and argue that replication may be difficult because it requires systemic changes throughout the organization (p. 519). Because of the high level of complexity and the broad scope of the knowledge that must be transferred (Winter and Szulanski, 2001), there are features of flow manufacturing and the process of its transfer that provide additional insights into our understanding of impediments to intra-firm practice transfer."

Writer: Mike Lillich, (765) 494-2077,

Sources: Thomas H. Brush, (765) 494-4441,

Catherine A. Maritan, (716) 645-3250,

Purdue News Service: (765) 494-2096;

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