Virtual Manufacturing Village

Shared Methodologies and Tools for Advanced Manufacturing

Manufacturing has evolved from a labor and individual skill-oriented enterprise to technology-oriented mass production processes. Many currently practiced methodologies and tools such Lean Manufacturing, the JIT Kanban system, and TQM are based on the mass production paradigm. During the last decade, however, there is a definite trend towards flexible, agile, and distributed manufacturing with the goal of developing customized products in small batches.

At the same time, manufacturing is coming under increasing pressures to conform to strict international environmental standards. The result is a radical shift from mass production to mass customization with a strong emphasis on reducing the environmental burden of products at all stages of manufacture and use.

Other trends are the explosive growth of information technology resources, such as the Internet and the World Wide Web, and pervasive concerns about environmental issues covering the entire spectrum of design, manufacture, and use of products.

With this in mind, research and training for the manufacturing sector must be significantly modified. At Vanderbilt University, a significant research effort is directed toward addressing these problems, and a major outreach program is being developed in the areas of intelligent and environmentally conscious design and manufacturing, and the use of the latest computer technology for educational delivery.

Tennessee is at the heart of the next generation of worldwide competition in the auto industry. Within a short distance from Vanderbilt University, both Saturn and Nissan operate huge plants that combine new technology with new people skills. Suppliers to these plants dot the countryside. Among these are the research and teaching faculties at the colleges at our consortium. At the same time, our group has long and strong ties to Japanese manufacturing and other technologies.