Time—The Next Source of Competitive Advantage

The ways leading companies manage time—in production, in new product development and introduction, in sales and distribution—represent the most powerful new sources of competitive advantage.

Editor’s Note: This is a classic HBR article that was assigned reading when I was a student. It has held up pretty well 35 years on.

George Stalk, Jr.

In manufacturing, costs fall into two categories: those that respond to volume or scale and those that are driven by variety. Scale-related costs decline as volume increases, usually falling 15% to 25% per unit each time volume doubles. Variety-related costs, on the other hand, reflect the costs of complexity in manufacturing: setup, materials handling, inventory, and many of the overhead costs of a factory. In … [ Read more ]

George Stalk, Jr.

Today’s new-generation companies compete with flexible manufacturing and rapid-response systems, expanding variety and increasing innovation. A company that builds its strategy on this cycle is a more powerful competitor than one with a traditional strategy based on low wages, scale, or focus. These older, cost-based strategies require managers to do whatever is necessary to drive down costs: move production to or source from a low-wage … [ Read more ]

A better way to drive your business

Integrated business planning is a well-known process, particularly among supply chain leaders. But in most companies, P&L owners are missing out.

Designing Omni-Channel Retailing to Align Financial Performance with Strategy

Sunil Chopra describes how looking at combinations of product and channel through the lens of return on invested capital (ROIC) allows retailers to design omni-channel portfolios that align their products, service offerings, and pricing. By using each channel to improve invested capital turns or broaden profit margin, these portfolios increase the company’s value. 

Calculating Complexity: Maximizing the Value of Customization

New tools that help pinpoint complexity’s cost—and where it comes from—can help companies make better tradeoffs in managing product portfolios.

Martin Reeves, Kevin Whitaker

In the current model of corporate capitalism, each company is treated as an economic island to be optimized individually. While this simplifies management and accountability, it masks the extent of economic and social interdependence between different stakeholders. In contrast, resilience is a property of systems: an individual company’s resilience means little if its supply base, customer base, or the social systems upon which it depends … [ Read more ]

How to Win Against Counterfeiters

Online fakers are coming after everybody—but even the small and scrappy can fight back.

Building an R&D Strategy for Modern Times

The age of the insular R&D organization is over. To serve as a company’s innovation engine, R&D strategy needs to be equipped for today’s fast-moving world.

An End-to-End Perspective on Field Service Optimization

Optimizing service after the sale in the world of physical goods can have a significant impact on reducing field service costs.

Make vs. Buy Revisited

Make or buy? To answer this classic manufacturing question, leading companies avoid the temptation to “feed the beast.” Instead, they focus on their core competencies and keep their long-term strategies in mind.

Making Supplier Relationships Work

Kearney offers nine ways to interact with suppliers, identifying formulas that characterize true supplier relationship management.

5 Steps to Get a Handle on Operations in Times of Crisis

Jaume Ribera breaks down the life cycle of a crisis into five stages and explores the challenges and opportunities each stage presents.

Randy Lim, Jean-Benoît Grégoire Rousseau, and Brooke Weddle

Some organizations worry that fostering innovation might jeopardize safety by introducing change, which many see as a source of risk. Our results, however, highlight the significance of line ownership: in our experience, one of the most effective bulwarks against accidents is the use of “near miss” programs, which encourage employees to identify hazardous situations and propose solutions before safety is jeopardized. Engaging employees in the … [ Read more ]

Technology + Operations: A Flywheel for Performance Improvement

New automation techniques can provide the first step toward continuous, tech-enabled redesign of critical operations—forming an intuitive ops-to-tech cycle in which tech improves ops, and vice versa.

Performance Management: Why Keeping Score Is So Important, and So Hard

The elements of a good performance-management system are simple, but integrating them into a business’s fundamental operating system is more difficult than it seems.

Seven Rules for Spinning Analytics Straw into Golden Results

While IoT-enabled advanced analytics could be worth trillions to manufacturers, turning insights into outcomes requires more than just the right technology.

Ops 4.0: Fueling the Next 20 Percent Productivity Rise with Digital Analytics

Business needs to raise productivity more than ever. Thanks to innovations in digitization and analytics, four new methodologies can yield the productivity breakthroughs organizations need.

Six Steps to Superior Product Prototyping: Lessons from an Apple and Oculus Engineer

Caitlin Kalinowski is a master of the prototyping process, with a deep understanding of where, when and how changes should be slotted in, from the first iteration to the last. It’s made her a highly sought-after engineer in Silicon Valley. In this exclusive interview, Kalinowski discusses how and why you must define your non-negotiables before starting to build prototypes. She dives deep on specific approaches … [ Read more ]