This week’s tech news has featured a wide range of subjects, including Sony’s possible foray into the set-top-box world; dazzling smartwatches; and, oh yeah, there’s a new iPhone. Remember when new Apple iPhones__or Apple iAnythings__used to dominate the business news once released? This week, the announcement of the faster iPhone 5S and cheaper (and more colorful) iPhone 5C left the public free to wonder about the next big smartphone evolution.
Monday, Reuters featured “Smartphones Try Fashion Makeovers to Stand Out from the Pack.” “Since the first touch-screen iPhone hit the market in 2007, software features have become easier to replicate and improvements in speed, weight, display size, and resolution have become routine,” write Alexei Oreskovic and Poornima Gupta. The article highlights how Apple, Motorola, Nokia, and others now are leaning on external phone makeovers to stand out.
While phones are getting more stylish, delivering those phones requires some basic concepts long known to those in the APICS world: keeping production costs down, managing inventory, and accurately forecasting demand.
“Success in the fashion game requires mastering new supply chain and manufacturing skills,” Oreskovic and Gupta write.
In addition, it requires building smartphones to order. The article quotes David Simchi-Levi, a professor from Massachusetts Institute of Technology, who says the make-to-order model must focus on speed. If it’s done right, make-to-order can generate richer margins and provide flexibility to respond to demand.
In the end, smartphone manufacturers can’t take their eyes off of innovation. They “ultimately need unique technology to maintain a long-term advantage.”
Setting up manufacturers for success
Consider the following definition of make-to-order (MTO) from the APICS Operations Management Body of Knowledge Framework: “In MTO environments, products are made entirely after the receipt of a customer order. The final product usually is a combination of standardized and custom items to meet the customer’s specific needs. MTO environments are more prevalent when customers are prepared to wait in order to get a product with unique features__usually customized or highly engineered products.”
As the Reuters story demonstrates, business success often depends on a blend of innovative ideas and core APICS body of knowledge concepts. One of the forces that drive us at APICS is to provide our community with the resources to pursue both of those meaningful, important endeavors.
In addition to its world-recognized certifications, APICS also offers the Principles of Operations Management program, which includes five foundational and customizable courses: inventory management, operations planning, manufacturing management, distribution and logistics, and managing operations. Think about how one or a combination of these courses could jump-start your company’s operations management processes. For more information, visit http://www.apics.org/principles.
Don’t forget about APICS 2013, September 29–October 1 in Orlando, Florida. This event can inspire you to improve and innovate your company’s supply chain and operations management processes.