Why flow matters most in highly complex manufacturing

| McKinsey Direct

Meeting demand is a growing challenge in complex manufacturing. Manufacturers of highly complex products, including aerospace companies, shipbuilders, and producers of industrial equipment, are experiencing unprecedented demand from impatient customers, but they also face acute headwinds in ramping up production to meet it. These companies’ products are becoming increasingly complex to manufacture, as designs evolve over decades, adding new functionality and additional requirements to legacy platforms. High levels of customer configurability further complicate manufacturing operations, with few products built exactly alike. Companies also face workforce challenges, with many of their most experienced workers reaching retirement age, and replacement constrained by long learning curves and certification times. The challenge ahead is daunting: manufacturers must rapidly increase throughput to record levels, on products that are more complex than ever, with the least experienced workforce in decades.

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