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How to make manufacturing a key strategic asset

For the past five years or so, some of the brighter minds in the supply chain arena have dreamt about the dawn of a manufacturing environment where make-to-inventory would be replaced by make-to-order.
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In this wished-for world, real-time demand signals from the marketplace would be delivered so seamlessly that every time a case of beer was scanned at a supermarket, a farm somewhere in the world would be notified so that the amount of hops it planted could be synchronized in real time with the amount of hops being consumed in the marketplace.

One part of the story on page 7 tells us that the dream of such a manufacturing environment has become real. Thanks to a digitally enabled network that automatically integrates the activities of manufacturer Microsoft with folding carton converter Mediaware, the multilingual cartons for European sales of Windows 7 are printed only when a signal from the marketplace indicates that cartons are needed. And it’s only the beginning.

What Microsoft has accomplished in its print-on-demand solution is precisely what smart manufacturers in all sectors should be striving for: tighter and tighter integration of processing and packaging. This integrated view of manufacturing leads to the understanding that manufacturing is not a tactical liability but rather a strategic asset. It also helps all hands on board the enterprise—from R&D to Marketing to Operations to Logistics—understand that manufacturing excellence can be used as a competitive edge.

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One encouraging sign that the historically segregated camps known as processing and packaging are coming together is the news that exhibit space in The Processing Zone at Pack Expo International is sold out. More than 150 companies will occupy more than 70,000 square feet in The Processing Zone.

“The sold-out status of The Processing Zone is a clear indicator of the processing industry’s support for Pack Expo’s integrated, total systems approach,” says Jim Pittas, vice president, tradeshows, PMMI. “With processing solutions integrated directly into the show, attendees have the entire packaging supply chain at their fingertips, and exhibitors can provide the collaborative, total systems approach their customers want and need. We expanded the Pack Expo shows because attendees told us it is what they need. Obvously, the industry agrees.”

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