Speed is a competitive asset, and the visibility from when a quote is first produced to when a final product is shipped is what matters most. Harvesting demand starts with this clear view through your company’s value chain. To ignore it by being myopic or by leaving out a critical step is to leave money on the table. AMR Research, a research firm that specializes in analyzing the effects of increasing the visibility of demand signals through global manufacturing enterprises, has found a strong correlation between the extent of integration and resulting transparency between the field and its many interactions with customers on the one hand, and the ability to excel at production, manufacturing, fulfillment, and service on the other.
The answer to being too inward-centric and missing the revolution your customers want is to aggressively develop and pursue a field-to-factory vision for your company. This is beyond buzzwords and just theoretical knowledge. It’s about turning speed and accuracy into a competitive advantage and turning change into an asset.
Clearly adopting a field-to-factory vision and then aggressively going after the strategies to fulfill its objectives is actually beyond best practices as it has been defined in many research circles. It’s beyond searching for the best of what others have done. It’s defining your own best practices as they relate to becoming a global competitor; where speed, not spending, and timing, not tentativeness, mark your strategies for growth.
Trane, the air-conditioning division of American Standard Companies Inc., is a leading provider of applied air-conditioning systems used in large buildings. Each of these systems is uniquely designed based on the characteristics and location of the building. The Trane system needs to meet the customers’ environmental and air-quality requirements while operating quietly and efficiently. This set of complex variables led Trane to pioneer the use of intelligent, rule-based product-selection and product-definition systems. The result is a product model that is built through the field-to-factory process. This model is comprised of “attributes and values” that define every aspect of the configuration, including performance specifications. Today, this data model is the information backbone of customers’ product requirements.
Field-to-factory strategies used:
Trane’s strategy was to develop a common information model that would evolve through the sales and manufacturing cycles and be relevant years after the product left the factory. By constructing this model around a product’s attributes and values, they created a common denominator that can be viewed across a product’s life. This same product model provides the basis for pricing, bills of material, manufacturing processes, service, and forecasting a future product-option mix.
* A common product definition model drives all business processes. This provides a common language from the sales engineer and the demand planner to the production technician.
* Suppliers using the attributes and values of the product definition produce customer-specific components. This ability eliminates the need to create unique part-level engineering drawings and purchase part numbers.
* Manpower planning is based on product configurations. In a mass-customized world made up of ever-changing mixes of size options, labor forces can be overwhelmed by part numbers and engineering changes. By building the labor profile around the key attributes and values of the product definition, the product configuration can be used to optimize and balance factory manpower.
* Recognizing and responding to market trends. By monitoring incoming order configurations, you can spot market shifts as they occur. This insight allows marketing teams to adjust near-term demand shaping strategies much the way Wal-Mart uses point-of-sales information.
This is an edited excerpt of “Field-to-factory –how manufacturers harvest demand.” To read the full paper visit http://www.cincom.com/lrc.