One of the most identifiable trends in the fundamental changes that are currently transforming manufacturing industry is the vertical and horizontal integrated value-chain. While some companies are pursuing subcontracting to allow them to concentrate on their customers and core competencies, others are building their businesses by focusing on these out-sourced tasks. Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEMs) are evolving into total solution providers. OME is a company that uses product components from one or more other companies to build a product and delivers it to the customer under its own company name or brand.
Collaborations between these two groups are the emergence of Flexible Manufacturing Networks (FMNs) that strongly challenge existing business models and the traditional manufacturing concepts. FMNs have more access to outside information and market contacts, and use both personal contacts and modern communication tools to maintain contacts and information flow. In addition, FMNs develop internal mechanisms needed to ensure cooperation, pooling of information, collective learning, and access to specialized services from local and outside suppliers.
Through firms' cooperation, firms gain access to markets or equipment that would have to had otherwise no access to them, or are able to achieve lower costs than they could on their own. But competition is always present, even among the firms in the network: a firm may choose to work with one firm on one network and with second firm on anther network, depending on which combination seems more likely to succeed at a particular job. FMNs are created to take advantage of market opportunities for particular products in what are often rapidly changing market niches. When market conditions change, FMNs disband and organize in different forms to take advantage of new opportunities.
This thesis seeks to explore the new phenomenon of inter-firm collaborations and to understand in more detail the design and operation of FMNs. It elaborates a conceptual framework for the FMN that consists of manufacturing, storage, transportation and service companies. The FMN is also recognized as an organizational basis for future manufacturing.
The objective is to deliver the order at a minimal cost within the delivery time allowed by the customer or market. This thesis presents furthermore an approach to the design and operation of the FMNs through the appropriate selection of partners, and also coordinates the tasks among these partners. Therefore, the objectives of the thesis are to:
Define the global manufacturing environment and its impact on the manufacturers, Define FMN goals, Cite FMNs design and operation, Establish a configuration and coordination approach for the most appropriate selection of the manufacturing partners, Plan the tasks among the partners for a specific customer's orders.