April 17, 2023


Agile Manufacturing Begins with a CMMS

Agile Manufacturing Begins with a CMMS

Agile manufacturing emphasizes quick responses to customer needs. It is related to Lean manufacturing, which focuses on eliminating waste. As with Lean, if you’re looking to create an Agile system, you’ll need to create processes and tools to enable you to achieve these goals.

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The Three Day Car Programme in the UK is an excellent example of the Agile approach in practice. The project aimed to create efficient build-to-order manufacturing systems in the automotive industry. In an ideal situation, these systems would see cars ordered, built, and delivered to customers in a matter of days. At the time, the average manufacturing time for a car in that region was 1.5 days. As such, it would be a significant breakthrough to move new products through multiple stages of the supply chain, from product design to moving raw materials through the production process, in a similar amount of time.

“Traditional manufacturing approaches are based on long-term planning and predictability, while agile manufacturing requires short-term planning and adaptability. Fortunately, new technologies facilitate flexible manufacturing now more than ever before.”


Agile production aims to meet customer demand while maintaining quality standards and controlling overall costs for producing a particular good. In competitive industries (such as car manufacturing in the example above), small improvements in the manufacturing process make a huge difference in a team’s overall success. It might not seem worth it to direct much effort towards incremental boosts in speed and product delivery. However, the Agile methodology is a manufacturing strategy that, when executed correctly, yields a significant competitive advantage.

agile manufacturing

History of Agile Manufacturing

The Agile manufacturing system originated in 2001. A group of developers, 17 in all, met at a ski lodge in Utah to contemplate alternatives to the Waterfall model. The Waterfall model is a development model created based on physical engineering principles and processes. It was first created in the 1970s, as a way to standardize a planned approach to information technology and software development. 

The Waterfall Model involved clearly defined and sequential phases of application development. Practitioners had to complete each production step before beginning the next. However, many information technologists found this problematic. They couldn’t incorporate feedback as they went along. Instead, they had to wait until the end of the cycle before making changes. So, in that ski lodge in Utah, the developers proposed a new way to create software, leading them to create the Agile Manifesto. To guide this new system, the team put in place the following principles: 

  • Individuals and interactions over processes and tools
  • Working software over comprehensive documentation
  • Customer collaboration over contract negotiation
  • Responding to change over following a plan

“A recent survey carried out by the National Association of Manufacturers’ Manufacturing Leadership Council (MLC) found that nine in ten manufacturers agreed they have suffered significant disruption to their supply chains over the last two years, including in raw material shortages, higher costs for materials and shipping, and component shortages.”


Key Agile Manufacturing Principles

In addition to these initial fundamental principles, many more Agile principles have come into play over the years. We can summarize them as follows:

Rapid Iteration

If you focus on moving as quickly as possible to deliver value, you might sometimes have to forgo potentially valuable features until later. This is a fundamental principle of Agile manufacturing. The idea is to move as fast as you can, deliver valuable products to customers in a shorter lead time, and improve upon features in subsequent iterations. 

Instead of repeated prototyping before you create a singular, perfect product, you aim to create multiple products. You optimize your capacity to make rapid changes. You’ll learn from each version of your product in the market. Flaws and successes, extraneous features, and vital functionality for customers all become clear as you go on. These days, 3d printing allows you to do this. Products are printed and tested immediately. Furthermore, 3d allows for mass customization.

“Resilience is the result of a risk-mitigation planning process, a state of readiness that is achieved when plans are put into place to meet large- or small-scale disruptions. Agility is the ability to create as-needed elasticity, and it is a capability built into the design of a supply chain. It’s the ability to execute on resilience plans.”



Manufacturing companies need flexible systems to withstand external volatility. This follows from the 4th principle stated above: you need to be able to respond to change instead of sticking to a set plan if it’s not working. Remember, the whole idea behind Agile is to circumvent developers being locked into predetermined processes. 

Whether these are market changes, environmental disruptions, or delayed production schedules, Agile organizations can always tweak their processes to ensure they meet customer satisfaction. As such, we recommend that you create systems for your manufacturing operations with high levels of adaptability.

Worker-Driven Change

Like Lean manufacturing, Agile runs on the principle of kaizen, or continuous improvement. If you’ve ever tried to implement changes with your team, you’ll know it’s easy to decide on changes from the office or boardroom. However, implementing changes on the shop floor takes logistics planning. Furthermore, you need to carry your workers along in real time to drive real change.

agile manufacturing

How to Do Agile Manufacturing?

If you’re thinking of implementing Agile manufacturing in your organization, you should ask yourself these questions beforehand:

  • First, is it actually worth it? Given your product or service, is there demand from customers for faster delivery of your current products? 
  • Second, and perhaps more importantly, can you develop that new version of your product within your current competencies? Remember, Agile and Lean are linked. And while Agile doesn’t focus on reducing waste as much as Lean does, Agile systems don’t want to take on extra load either. So instead, the focus is on going as fast as you can with what you already have. 

When you’ve answered both questions, you’ll follow a system that works based on the following key elements:

Modular Product Design

Agile organizations create processes that allow for product design in a modular fashion. This means fast and easy variation to meet any changing market demands.

Information Technology

This means using technology to facilitate the real-time flow of information between departments. Production, customer service, and management need to be in sync. The key here is speed.


Beyond automating communications, you need cooperation between all teams. It’s one thing to share information quickly. However, it’s far better to be on the same page about how to proceed. A culture of collaboration is key to successful Agile operations. This applies both internally between teams and externally with outside stakeholders in the supply chain.

Knowledge Culture

Investing in employee training and awareness is key. You want to ensure your team members know set protocols and can communicate new developments as they arise. 

Beyond knowing what customers want, you need a full grasp of what strategies are working and what new ideas are feasible. If your current system is going to sustain, for example, same-day delivery for customer orders, it will be because your frontline workers are trained to make it happen.

agile manufacturing
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Lekan Olanrewaju
Lekan Olanrewaju
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