Productive Systems

The core of most productive systems today is still a complex of technology and people. Even though automation is making strong inroads, processes usually involve some combination of humans and machines. We will concentrate our attention in this article on the blending of technology and people as components of a productive system. Because productive systems are such a blend, they are often called socio-technical systems. There are also some of the special design problems encountered in integrating jobs and processes into systems. Work measurement and the methodologies used to measure the labor content of products and services for planning purposes and often as a basis for wage payment are also part of work systems but not within the scope of this article.

Criteria and values:

From the time of the Industrial Revolution to the present, the main pressures influencing the designs of processes and jobs labor productivity improvement and economic optimization. Present day technology and enormous markets for many products and services have fostered specialization, and that principle has been applied throughout industry and is currently being applied in service and non-manufacturing systems.

The specific technology involved limits the extent to which division of labor can be pursued, and market size limits how far it will be pursued. But within these limits, managers usually have a wide range of choices of job and process designs involving different degrees of labor specialization. It was assumed that finely divided jobs were better because they would increase productivity and that other factors were correlated with productivity, and incentive pay schemes were used to maintain workers’ motivation.

Beginning in the early 1930s however, another criterion was proposed as a counterbalance – job satisfaction. Studies indicated that workers responded to other factors in the work situation besides pay. In the late 1940s the value of the job satisfaction criterion developed from a morale-building program at IBM. The term job enlargement was coined to describe the process of reversing the trend toward specialization. Practical applications of job enlargement were written up in the literature, describing improvements in productivity and quality levels resulting from jobs of broader scope.

Two views of the job design process are the technological view that has been the dominant one and the socio-technical view that has gained prominence following World War II.

Technology view of Process Planning and job Design:

Although the general methods were developed in manufacturing systems they have been adapted to and widely used in many other settings, such as offices, banks, and hospitals.

Product Analysis:

The product or service to be produced is first analyzed, primarily from a technological point of view to determine the processes required. Schematic and graphic models are commonly developed to help visualize the flow of materials and the relationships among parts.

Assembly charts:

The assembly chart can be useful for making preliminary plans regarding subassemblies, where purchased parts are used in the assembly sequence, and for appropriate general methods, of manufacture. The assembly chart is often called a “Gozinto” chart, for thee words “goes into”. These clearly show the relationship of the parts, the sequence of assembly, and which groups of parts make up subassemblies. The chart is a schematic model of the entire manufacturing process at one level of detail.

Operation process Charts:

Assuming that the product is already designed, we have complete drawings and specifications of the parts, their dimensions and tolerances, and the materials to be used. The engineering drawings specify locations, sizes, and tolerance for holes to be drilled and surfaces to be finished for each part. With this information, the most economical equipment, processes, and sequences of processes can be specified by a process planner.

An operation process chart is a summary of all required operations and inspections. It is general plan for production. Although the focus of such charts is on the technological processing required, it is obvious that the jobs to be performed by humans have also been specified. Some discretion in the makeup of jobs still exists, especially in the assembly phase; however, it is clear that “technology is in the saddle.”