Increasing global competition and heightened customer expectations have for many years now encouraged enterprises in a variety of industries to focus on, and invest in, effective operations management. In most industries, managers no longer have to be convinced of the value of taking an integrated view of the design, analysis, and operation of their manufacturing, service, and logistics operations. Indeed, in many industries, operational excellence and a sophisticated approach to supply-chain risk management based on flexibility, efficiency, and advanced tools for logistics network optimization are no longer a competitive advantage—they are necessary to compete.
Consider, for example, the semiconductor industry. Thirty years ago, the semiconductor industry was a growing technology-focused industry and, for the first time, was beginning to face cost pressures. For years, the industry had focused on superior technology, and manufacturing was an afterthought. As long as the products were manufactured as they were envisioned by their inventors, there was little need to pay attention to capacity utilization, operational efficiency, inventory levels, or risk management; if you made them, profits would come.However, as the semiconductor industry matured and competitive pressures grew, firms began to focus on operations, utilizing resources effectively and efficiently, optimizing systems, and perhaps most importantly, dealing effectively with uncertainty and risk. Significant advances in the science of operations were required to bring about these changes, and by working collaboratively among themselves as well as with academia through organizations such as SEMATECH, semiconductor firms were able to make great strides, pushing the state-of-the-art in semiconductor operations to new heights.