Rover’s Custom Order Process Revolutionized Car Manufacturing


It’s not the three-day car, but it’s pretty damn close.

While U.S. and Japanese auto manufacturers struggle to achieve that perennial benchmark of agility, a small, U.K.-based car manufacturer is driving off with the goods–the promise of delivering a custom-order vehicle to a customer within 14 days (including five days’ ground-transit time).

Here’s a surprise: For the Rover Group Ltd., perfecting the customer end–rather than optimizing the shop floor–has been the route to agility.

Rover (a subsidiary of BMW of Germany) is out to take the sleaze out of the car-buying experience. Its revolutionary new PC-based sales and order-entry system lets customers bypass the disagreeable haggling process in favor of an enlightened exchange with sales “consultants.” With the aid of full-motion car-demo videos and online options and pricing information, the sales consultants empower buyers to choose the right vehicle with the right options at the right price.

As of the end of this year, the PC sales data will …



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Manufacturers Stay Agile


No matter what you make, the concept of agility is driving your business. Better get used to the factory floor.

How do you move a 150M-BYTE file from the Unix-based engineering department to the PC LAN-based plant floor? Today, Harley-Davidson Co. does it 1 megabyte at a time. It takes about an hour over a T-1 line, says Larry Stair, manager of engineering systems at the Milwaukee-based $1.2 billion motorcycle maker.

That’s going to change because Harley is striving to be more agile.

The plant guys don’t have time to read blueprints. They need three-dimensional models–files up to 150M bytes–on their PC screens. They need the data to prepare bills of material, to program manufacturing machines, to send specs to tooling suppliers, and to monitor quality. In this blitz-paced world, every minute shaved off the time it takes to move product to market means the difference between life and strife.

Welcome to the Age of Agility, where rapidly changing …


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