information and use it to make effective decisions. "Virtual manufacturing facilities" will require that operators be capable of learning new skills in a changing environment. Supervisors and plant managers will need extensive systems knowledge in addition to a thorough understanding of processes and customers. Executives, to be effective in leading and redirecting the organization, must understand changing customer requirements as well as new technologies.

The wealth of information on the Worldwide Web is virtually useless without reading and learning skills. Turning raw data and information into actionable intelligence and knowledge is a critical skill for business leaders. SMEs that are limited in their ability to learn and reshape their businesses in the face of changing environments will not be able to sustain their competitive advantage. Indeed, learning should be treated as a core competency that can be used for competitive advantage. Thus, SMEs must develop organizations that are willing and able to learn and adapt.

Recommendation. Small and medium-sized manufacturing enterprises should (1) assess and strengthen their management capabilities; (2) create a corporate environment conducive to the flexibility, change, evolving skills, and learning required by integrated supply chains; (3) integrate their own supply chains; (4) learn to deal effectively with risk; (5) develop the people skills required to integrate effectively with customer supply chains; and (6) engender a shift in corporate attitudes about supply chains from '"what's in it for me" to "how can we maximize the common good." Because all of the requisite skills are rarely resident in a single entrepreneur, whenever possible, SMEs should increase the breadth and depth of their management teams.

The National Academies | 500 Fifth St. N.W. | Washington, D.C. 20001
Copyright © National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.
Terms of Use and Privacy Statement