New Ways of Looking at the Decision areas

With the changes in the customers’ requirement and with the changes occurring in the social set up worldwide, the production and operations discipline is placing increasing emphasis on relation- ships with the people that interact with the firm such as customers, employees and suppliers or business associates. The latter are important for the company to have its supplies of materials and services flowing in as desired. The firm interfaces with its associates while taking these ‘supply’ decisions.

It is essential to maintain the desired quality of the produce from the firm. However, it is being increasingly realized now that quality and productivity are intimately related to the human input, i.e. the employees of the company, more than anything else. Therefore, another area of decisions is that of HR decisions. The most important of all human interactions of a firm is that with its customers. In addition to quality and productivity the customer is interested in the timeliness of the delivery of the desired goods/services. Thus, another area of decisions is that of ‘timing’. These decision areas are, thus focused on people – on ‘others’ (i.e. other than the company as represented by the capital). There is one more area that of spatial decisions regarding the locations and layouts. The former is related predominantly to the supply and ‘timing’ problems. The latter is related to the ‘timing’ and ‘productivity’ issues. Thus the production management decisions may be classified as those pertaining to: People, Supply, Time and Space. This view is reflected in points below:

Employees need to take HR decisions for Quality & productivity, while Business Associates relate to Supply decisions affecting Supplies& capacity.

Customers are targeted for right timing decisions to chalk out production planning and scheduling.

The recent philosophy is that the technology is subordinate to the customer as customer requirements dictate the technology generation and use. One may note that a distinction needs to be made between scientific research and technology. Capacity of the operations system is related to the technology employed. It is also much dependent upon the business associates who provide capacity in terms of outsourced products, supplies and services. Scheduling, the timing decision, is related to the customer. Technology, capacity and system maintenance are in some ways related to it. Job of production and operations management needs to be modified. For instance, it is not the technology which is a long term decision, but the company’s manpower and its suppliers. Product design is better fitted in the intermediate term as the technology and the designs keep changing (or are required to be changed) often enough these days Plant selection, manpower training and setting up work standards would rather belong to the intermediate term decisions. Outsourcing (not exactly ‘make or buy’) is a long term decision as it involves selecting business partners who would be partner for a long time. Such classification based upon the long, intermediate or short term bases is useful in knowing the firm’s areas or decisions that will have impact for a long time. It also highlights the needs that have to be attended to now (short term decisions).

It may be interesting, at this juncture, to trace the history of production and operations management charts in operations scheduling. The considerations of efficiency in the use of materials followed later. It was almost 1930, before a basic inventory model was presented by FW Harris.

Economic history and manufacturing history are both important in the sense that these would suggest some lessons that can be learnt for the future. History helps us to know the trends and to take a peek at the future. If the 21st century organizations have to manage their operation well, they will have to try to understand the ‘what and how’ of the productivity improvements in the past and what led to the various other developments in the field of production and operations management. The past could tell us a thing or two about the future if not everything. Looking at the speed with which technology, economies, production and service systems, and the society’s values and framework seem to be changing one may tend to think that ‘unprecedented’ things have been happening at the dawn of this millennium. However, there seems to be common thread running all through.