Published 26-10-2021
| Article appears in October 2021 Issue

The Manufacturing Moral of the “Three Little Pigs”

29-09-2021

Glenn Graney, QAD’s Marketing Manager for the Industrial and High-Tech markets, adapts one of our favourite fairy tales…

There is a well-known fable about three little pigs that go off into the world to find their way. They encounter a wolf that is able to disrupt their worlds with a huff and a puff. Revisiting the traditional “Three Little Pigs” provides insights into the challenges of dated approaches for manufacturing systems. If you think you know how the story ends, then you are underestimating the wolf in competition clothing.

The “Three Little Manufacturing Pigs”

Three little manufacturing pigs make their way out into the manufacturing world. Each has their own respective skill set and positions himself against competition and challenges. The first pig chooses to make his factory out of STRAW (Systems That Really Are Worrisome). In manufacturing terms, he is very dependent on manual systems and lots of paper. This certainly makes him vulnerable to the competition and doesn’t take much for a huff and a puff to send him scrambling. The first little pig scrambles over to his sibling’s factory for protection.

The second pig is a bit savvier and chooses to make his factory out of STICKS (Systems That Intend to Connect Knowledge via Spreadsheets). In manufacturing terms, this is a more automated approach made of systems that are loosely bound together. This pig plugs the holes between his “sticks” with Excel spreadsheets and customizations. This approach still makes him vulnerable to the competition. The wolf has to huff and puff just a little harder, but he really doesn’t have a problem sending these pigs scrambling again.

The two displaced pigs scramble to their last sibling who has chosen to make his factory and associated systems out of BRICKS (Big, Rigid, Inflexible Capability without Knowledge Sharing). Traditionally, this pig is seen to be the smartest of the family. He has created an infrastructure that feels solid and robust. But it’s a funny thing about bricks. Bricks are heavy. Bricks are inflexible. Bricks and customized software systems are not easily maintained and modified. Our third little pig struggles to expand, modify and react to unexpected challenges. In some ways, the choices that he made about building a centric approach have resulted in rigidity.

The competition inevitably catches up to our three little manufacturing pigs. The swine crew scrambles into the brick factory and their well-established systems of support. The moral of the traditional fable tells us that through hard work and selection of a robust solution, the third pig has positioned himself to resist the competition. In the fable the wolf is not able to huff and puff the bricks away and the story ends badly for the wolf. The pigs feel secure that they are finally safe from huffing and puffing, but there are flaws in this view.

The Modern Digital Age Wolf

The traditional view assumes that the wolf has a predictable strategy. It completely discounts that the wolf is evolving as quickly, if not more quickly, as the pigs. But this is not your grandmother’s wolf, Little Red Riding Hood! Wolves actually travel in packs. A clever pack mate utilises a giant industrial fan that goes well beyond huffing and puffing. Even if the bricks withstand the increased velocity, it is a mistake to assume that the competition is reliant on wind alone.

The digital age wolf does not care much for huffing and puffing. He has switched to advanced technology and digital transformation which makes him mobile with a whole new level of fierce. This wolf is most likely already hacking your systems, breaching your security and opening the doors to your brick factory with an app.

The rest of the pack delivers disruptive alternative business models that do not align with the centralized view of a brick foundation. The wolf’s virtual approach to the marketplace actually reveals that the heavy, single on-premise solution that was once endeared as an advantage is now a liability. How do pigs stuck in a brick-and-mortar approach reconcile their ability to compete? Are our pig friends doomed to end up as bacon on the wolves’ burgers?

Ultimately, our three manufacturing pigs can evolve as well. That evolution means surrendering the limits of papers, the siren song of spreadsheets and the “big bang brickness” of traditional systems. The secret is in becoming the adaptive manufacturing enterprise. Our swine team needs to think outside the brick box. The moral for our pigs is that modern challenges require replacing bricks with nimbleness.

What is Adaptive Manufacturing?

Adaptive Manufacturing incorporates the integration of data, from supplier to customer, with real-time analytics and visibility across the supply chain ecosystem. By utilizing business insights from across the enterprise, adaptive manufacturers can rapidly respond to business and market changes. Cloud-based systems provide the flexibility and virtual expandability that is necessary for modern infrastructure. The modular systems and applications are pre-designed for change and evolving challenges. IT and the associated systems can be a strategic competitive tool rather than an aging barrier to progress.

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