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Managing advanced manufacturing technology (AMT) implementation in manufacturing SMEs

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Purpose ‐ The purpose of this paper is to describe a new methodology for implementing leading edge technology into "design and manufacture" companies, for them to gain a competitive advantage, integrate the supply chain and improve company performance and intangible assets. Design/methodology/approach ‐ A seven-stage process is applied to 73 SMEs, which involves identifying suitable companies, capability mapping, designing bespoke solutions, sourcing, funding, implementing new technology and training, followed by formal capability reviews. Informal guidance is offered throughout the process to increase confidence in new systems and reduce transitional performance gaps. Findings ‐ The success rate was very high; companies often experienced a positive step change in performance and income, with notable increases in confidence and customer perceptions. The methodology was embraced by the companies, resulting in very few dropouts. Research limitations/implications ‐ A long-term study is needed to review company performance over an extended period. Practical implications ‐ Providing free independent expert advice on the benefits of technological adaptation, specifically the advantages/disadvantages of candidate advanced manufacturing technology (AMT) systems, assists SMEs in gaining sufficient confidence to implement new technology, especially when the requirements of all stakeholders are taken into consideration. Training at an appropriate level coupled with mentoring is necessary to gain the maximum benefits from new systems. Social implications ‐ Funding initiatives can benefit from increased participating company performance by supplying leading edge technology and mentoring in addition to training and supplier agnostic advice. Originality/value ‐ The paper was able to assess the effects on business processes and income from technological adaptation using real time feedback from participating companies.
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Keywords: Design; Manufacturing systems; Small to medium-sized enterprises; Supply chain management

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 2010-01-01

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