When I first began instituting demand-driven practices in the late 90s, we were into creating pull, eliminating waste, and getting on a path of continuous improvement. Technology at the time was seen as an inhibitor rather than an enabler. Most people active in Constraints Management and Lean Manufacturing were abandoning their technology and going to purely manual solutions. I always believed that technology was important to get the most out of the system and to make it scalable, however, in the late 90s, the lack of technologies that enabled pull made manual the only logical choice.
One of the more fascinating developments in demand-driven enablement has been the shift of demand-driven manufacturing back to technology as an enabler rather than an inhibitor. There is recognition today that technology has to play a significant role in eliminating waste and synchronizing operations and extended supply chains. Along with this trend, the creation of open ERP systems that are easily integrated with service-oriented architecture allows companies to leverage the system they already have and benefit from today’s best-of-breed, demand-driven solutions through seamless, real-time integration. Finally, the web-based, SaaS revolution has made this process more cost effective, with expensive internal services now “downloaded” to the software provider, freeing up IT and manufacturing teams to focus on what matters. The digitization of demand-driven practices has, in effect, opened up companies’ ability to manage inventory and constraints more effectively; free up capacity; control operating expenses; drive flow; dampen variability; and create innovations to meet customer demand.
Based on decades in this business, I have found that demand-driven manufacturers realize the most benefit when they keep their eyes on the prize: Each day, they stay focused on demand-driven behaviors and remain disciplined in their efforts. It can be a difficult road. But it is my hope that this conversation will validate why demand-driven matters and inspire you on your journey each day. Until next time, keep it Lean!
Additional resources on this topic:
Article: What is Demand-Driven Manufacturing?