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Management article
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Reference no. 95410
Published by: Harvard Business Publishing
Published in: "Harvard Business Review", 1995

Abstract

Manufacturing managers in a broad array of industries agree that achieving low cost and high quality is no longer enough to guarantee success. In the face of fierce, low-cost competition and an army of high- quality suppliers, companies are increasingly concentrating on flexibility as a way to achieve new forms of competitive advantage. Having acknowledged the importance of flexibility, however, managers in industry after industry are finding it frustratingly difficult to improve. In a quest to help manufacturing managers begin to understand why the improvement of flexibility has been so elusive, author David Upton embarked on a study of more than 60 factories in North America that manufacture fine paper. Upton found that, contrary to conventional wisdom, the flexibility of the plants depended much more on the people in the operation than on any technical factor.

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Abstract

Manufacturing managers in a broad array of industries agree that achieving low cost and high quality is no longer enough to guarantee success. In the face of fierce, low-cost competition and an army of high- quality suppliers, companies are increasingly concentrating on flexibility as a way to achieve new forms of competitive advantage. Having acknowledged the importance of flexibility, however, managers in industry after industry are finding it frustratingly difficult to improve. In a quest to help manufacturing managers begin to understand why the improvement of flexibility has been so elusive, author David Upton embarked on a study of more than 60 factories in North America that manufacture fine paper. Upton found that, contrary to conventional wisdom, the flexibility of the plants depended much more on the people in the operation than on any technical factor.

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