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Mastering operational flexibility

Three ways to manage manufacturing volatility and drive growth


Managing manufacturing

A majority of business executives are right behind the idea of operational flexibility—being able to meet changing customer demand and control costs. Yet, we found that only 11 percent were able to master operational flexibility in the past decade.

While market volatility is upending traditional manufacturing practices, these masters in operational flexibility are able, on average, to lower conversion costs by 11 percent and increase demand fulfillment by 32 percent between 2005 and 2015.


Masters of operational flexibility take the following three actions:

Capture insights directly from their customers

Capture insights directly from their customers

Prioritize modular production lines

Prioritize modular production lines

Assign new flexibility metrics

Assign new flexibility metrics


Three ways to manage manufacturing volatility and take the path to operational flexibility:

Track end-customer behaviors to anticipate demand

Reengineer the value chain to address areas of need

Measure value chain flexibility to be responsive to change


In July and August 2015 the Accenture Institute for High Performance conducted an online survey of 247 business executives in eight countries and six industry groups. The survey targeted senior business executives with a high level of exposure to their company’s entire value network. We focused on large manufacturing businesses with annual revenues of at least US$1 billion.

We also undertook extensive secondary research of manufacturing companies for the period of 2005 to 2015, and held discussions with Accenture specialists to gather insights from their experiences with manufacturing clients.


The Accenture Institute for High Performance develops and communicates breakthrough ideas and practical insights on management issues, economic trends and the impact of new and improving technologies. Its worldwide team of researchers collaborates with Accenture’s strategy, digital, technology and operations leadership to demonstrate, through original, rigorous research and analysis, how organizations become and remain high performers.