Technological complexity and burgeoning product variety are placing more demands on manufacturers than they can handle, even organizations that claim to have adopted lean-manufacturing principles. That is why companies such as Auburn Consolidated Industries, Deere & Co., Maytag Corp., Fleetwood Enterprises and VEC (Virtual Engineered Composites) Technology, formerly Pyramid Composites, are investigating new technologies and Internet-based processes that offer potential solutions. These pioneers are hoping that techniques and technologies, such as genetic-algorithm software, VEC cells and manufacturing control via the Internet, will enable them to cut costs, decrease cycle times and deliver personalized products with more features faster than ever before. We may even be seeing a new stage in the evolution of manufacturing.Distance and distribution complexity have long created problems for manufacturers, but today companies have new tools with which to tackle the challenges. The problem of shipping parts to where they are needed has always gotten in the way of faster cycle times. Distance creates particular challenges for companies making products from materials that are molded to make Jacuzzis, Jet Skis, automotive parts and the like — materials such as fiberglass or plastics.