Facilities planning in operation


The operations function essentially is a transformation process that accepts the inputs, and gives the outputs after adding value to these inputs. Process selection is a major strategic decision as it involves allocation of man and material resources as well as financial commitments of a long nature. Corporate planning these days, gives enough importance to operations, along with marketing to which it plays a supportive role.

The transformation process is expected to generate an output desired by the market, and this it should do in the most cost efficient way. We have to recognize that operations management is a business-related function, and is not a technical or engineering-driven function. Operations give outputs of products and services. Production engineering provides expert support services for these processes selection has a technical dimension — process should be able to meet specifications. Process selection has a business dimension to get into the market and stay there and once this is done to win orders.

We shall examine in this article the major considerations in the selection of the transformations process, the different types of processes available and the method of selecting the most appropriate process.

Adaptive Process

Process selection has to adapt itself to a number of changing factors like capacity, lead-time, flexibility, trade-offs between material, labor and capital, trade-offs between volume and variety etc. Therefore this decision is pretty complex. We cannot have the best process and it could only be the most acceptable process, given the different trade-offs. As the factors change with the passage of time, there could be a change in a process selected too, leading to another appropriate process.

Environmental Effect

Process selection responds to environmental changes, especially changes in technology. The previous process may be replaced. They may become obsolete also. Even the technology involved in organizing the operations function tells upon the process selected.

Group Technology or Autonomous Working:

The competitive environment also affects the process selection. If Amul has spray-dried milk, it also becomes necessary for Food Specialties Ltd. to have spray dried milk powder (Nespray). Non-price competition is also important in process selection.

Forms of Transformation Process

Process selection also refers to the selection of sub-processes, and the sub-processes of these sub-processes also. When the output consists of a product, there are assemblies and sub-assemblies and this break-up continues till the elemental level of components incapable of being broken down further. These components and sub-components can either be made by us or can be purchased from outside. We have to take a make or buy decision here. For those components which we are to make, we have to select the process, technology to be employed, sequence of operations, process, storage and transport from one work center to another, plant and machinery for transformation process, manpower deployment, layout of the work place, tooling, jigs and fixtures necessary etc. As we assemble certain products like transistor radios we have to outline in detail the assembly process. Here the point to be noted is that there is no ideal process for an ideal product — there is room for improvement in both the process used and the output generated.