- Why is production and operations management important in both manufacturing and service firms?
In the 1980s, many U.S. manufacturers lost customers to foreign competitors because their production and operations management systems did not support the high-quality, reasonably priced products consumers demanded. Service organizations also rely on effective operations management in order to satisfy consumers. Operations managers, the personnel charged with managing and supervising the conversion of inputs into outputs, work closely with other functions in organizations to help ensure quality, customer satisfaction, and financial success.
- What types of production processes do manufacturers and service firms use?
Products are made using one of three types of production processes. In mass production, many identical goods are produced at once, keeping production costs low. Mass production, therefore, relies heavily on standardization, mechanization, and specialization. When mass customization is used, goods are produced using mass-production techniques up to a point, after which the product or service is custom-tailored to individual customers by adding special features. When a firm’s production process is built around customization, the firm makes many products one at a time according to the very specific needs or wants of individual customers.
- How do organizations decide where to put their production facilities? What choices must be made in designing the facility?
Site selection affects operating costs, the price of the product or service, and the company’s ability to compete. In choosing a production site, firms must weigh the availability of resources—raw materials, manpower, and even capital—needed for production, as well as the ability to serve customers and take advantage of marketing opportunities. Other factors include the availability of local incentives and the manufacturing environment. Once a site is selected, the firm must choose an appropriate design for the facility. The three main production facility designs are process, product, and fixed-position layouts. Cellular manufacturing is another type of facility layout.
- Why are resource-planning tasks such as inventory management and supplier relations critical to production?
Production converts input resources, such as raw materials and labor, into outputs, finished products and services. Firms must ensure that the resources needed for production will be available at strategic moments in the production process. If they are not, productivity, customer satisfaction, and quality may suffer. Carefully managing inventory can help cut production costs while maintaining enough supply for production and sales. Through good relationships with suppliers, firms can get better prices, reliable resources, and support services that can improve production efficiency.
- How do operations managers schedule and control production?
Routing is the first step in scheduling and controlling production. Routing analyzes the steps needed in production and sets out a workflow, the sequence of machines and operations through which a product or service progresses from start to finish. Good routing increases productivity and can eliminate unnecessary cost. Scheduling involves specifying and controlling the time and resources required for each step in the production process. Operations managers use three methods to schedule production: Gantt charts, the critical path method, and PERT.
- How can quality-management and lean-manufacturing techniques help firms improve production and operations management?
Quality and productivity go hand in hand. Defective products waste materials and time, increasing costs. Poor quality also leads to dissatisfied customers. By implementing quality-control methods, firms can reduce these problems and streamline production. Lean manufacturing also helps streamline production by eliminating unnecessary steps in the production process. When activities that don’t add value for customers are eliminated, manufacturers can respond to changing market conditions with greater flexibility and ease.
- What roles do technology and automation play in manufacturing and service-industry operations management?
Many firms are improving their operational efficiency by using technology to automate parts of production. Computer-aided design and manufacturing systems, for example, help design new products, control the flow of resources needed for production, and even operate much of the production process. By using robotics, human time and effort can be minimized. Factories are being automated by blending computers, robots, and machinery into flexible manufacturing systems that require less labor to operate. Service firms are automating operations too, using technology to cut labor costs and control quality.
- What key trends are affecting the way companies manage production and operations?
Data show the U.S. economy steaming steadily ahead, but dramatic advances in technology, predicted worker shortages, and global competition create challenges for the future. How will companies balance their technology and workforce needs? Will the United States maintain its lead in the ongoing war for leadership in innovation? And what should it be doing to convert today’s students into tomorrow’s innovators and scientists? Surveys indicate that finding qualified workers continues to be a major concern facing U.S. industry today. If the United States is to maintain its competitive edge, more private and federal investment is needed for science and research. And what of the increasingly crucial role of technology? These are some of the trends facing companies today.