Author Archives: 51770888

Defining "Agile"

“Agile” in manufacturing describes plant responsiveness to market requirements, the ability to produce novel or established goods quickly and flexibly (Slack et al, 2004). Katayama and Bennett (2006, p. 93) define agile manufacturing as “the idea of frequently changing products and making investment in equipment to facilitate the production system’s agility”.

"Agile" in Supply Chains

“Agility is the ability of an organisation to respond rapidly to changes in demand, in terms of both volume and variety” (Christopher, 2003, p. 285).

Agile, although frequently regarded as an element of lean, is better described as its complement. Whereas lean offers tools for streamlining throughput and reducing inventory, agile suggests no specific methods for systemic improvement. Agile is more philosophy than toolkit, although to van Hoek (1998), agile is a composite concept of strategic postponement (discussed later) and variable capacity.

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Defining "Lean"

"Lean" or “leanness” is one of a quintet of paradigms that dominate modern organisational management (Naim et al, 2004), the others being Time-Based Competition (Stalk, 1988), Mass Customisation (Pine, 1993), SCM (Oliver and Webber, 1982; Houlihan, 1987), and agility (Kidd, 1994).

Lean evolved from the Toyota Production System (TPS) developed during the 1970s by Ohno and Toyoda and publicised in the Anglophone world by Shingo (1981), Schonberger (1982) and Ohno (1988). According to Holweg (2007) “lean” was coined by Krafcik (1988) who introduced the “tools” of waste reduction, which also provide the auxiliary but significant benefits of improved quality and reduced cost and lead times.[1]

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The literature of SCRM is coherent in its promulgation of SCM-compliant solutions to risk. Circularity colours the reasoning of SCRM: the issues of integration are resolvable by integration; risk is the product of uncertainty; SC solutions resolve SC problems. The question of SCRM’s applicability to non-SC systems is unaddressed, as too is the possibility that non-integrated systems might retain risk-related advantages over integrated systems. The prospect that risk might be addressed by unorthodox or retrograde methods awaits presentation.

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Christopher and Peck (2004) maintain that resilience in the SC demands flexibility and agility. SCRES is contingent on efficient transportation and communication systems – rudimentary variables commonly overlooked by SC theorists.

SCRES addresses the post-disruption recoverability of the SC (Christopher and Peck, 2004; Peck, 2005). Ponomarov and Holcomb, (2009, p.131) provide a precise definition of SCRES: “the adaptive capability of the supply chain to prepare for unexpected events, respond to disruptions, and recover from them and maintain continuity of operations at the desired level of connectedness and control over structure and function.”

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To Jüttner and Maklan (2011), SCV is the managerial counterpart of SCRM. Similarly, to Blos et al (2009) and Christopher and Peck (2004), SCV is the susceptibility of the SC to the possibility and ramifications of disruption. Since anything at risk is vulnerable, SCRM declares the SC vulnerable. For this reason, SCV is commonly conceptualised as complementary to SCRM (Wagner and Bode, 2006).

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The issues of SC risk compel consideration of the correspondent notions of SC resilience and vulnerability (hereafter SCRES and SCV respectively). The study of SCRES and SCV is a developing territory within the topography of logistics and SC research. A report commissioned by the Department of Trade and Industry in 2001 (Cranfield University School of Management) could now be regarded as the seed of a steadily broadening vine. The report (p. 2) defines SCV as “exposure to serious disturbances, arising from risks within the supply chain as well as risks external to the supply chain.” This definition indicates that its authors, like Mason-Jones and Towill (1999), split risk into two categories: internal and external. “Internal” concerns factors under direct management control (e.g. quality standards); “external” concerns events and conditions over which management has no control (e.g. natural disasters and sociopolitical events).

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SCM reveals its historical and practical proximity with operations management by its borrowing of lean, agile, leagile, and other manufacturing tools. Some authors define SCM purely in operational terms, i.e. the flow of materials and products (Tyndall et al, 1998). Oliver and Webber (1982) use SCM to describe “the planning and control of the total materials flow”. Later, Houlihan (1984, 1985, 1987) uses “SCM” in reference to internal integration and material flow across organizational borders. To others (e.g. Ellram and Cooper, 1990), SCM is a philosophy of structure characterised by unity among elements. A minority consider the term to refer principally to management processes (e.g. La Londe, 1997).

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