Production Management


Production is the use of people and machines to convert materials into finished products and supply these products to customers. Production includes three key stages: product development, purchasing, and manufacturing.

The development of a new product involves six steps: idea generation, screening, business analysis, product development, test marketing, and commercialization. Roughly, one in 58 new product ideas becomes a commercial success.

When the product development department designs a new product, a make-buy decision determines which components will be bought from outside suppliers and which will be made by the firm itself.

The six steps in purchasing raw materials and semi-finished and finished parts are 1) recognizing what is needed, 2) developing specifications, 3) requesting bids and selecting a vendor, 4) following up with the vendor, 5) receiving the order, and 6) evaluating the vendor.

Mass production and automation have revolutionized manufacturing methods and have made higher quality, standardized products available at lower prices.

The three classifications of manufacturing operations are standard versus custom manufacture, continuous versus batch process, and analytic versus synthetic process.

Once final products are assembled, the transportation section must ship them to customers on time and in good condition. The managers here use one of the five modes of transportation: highway, rail, air, water, and pipeline. Developments such as piggyback service and containerization allow a business to use two or more transportation modes to move shipment over long distances.

My Consultancy–Asif J. Mir – Management Consultant–transforms organizations where people have the freedom to be creative, a place that brings out the best in everybody–an open, fair place where people have a sense that what they do matters. For details please visit www.asifjmir.com, and my Lectures.

Manufacturing Inventories


Manufacturing inventories depend on how much value has been incorporated by the firm:

  1. Raw materials
  2. Components/Subassemblies/Unfinished items
  3. Work-in-process
  4. End items/Finished goods

Raw materials are any inventories by a company which the company has not yet processed in any way. This would include such obvious raw materials as iron ore, sand or glass. However, by definition, it could include computer chips or other expensive items which have not yet been processed.

Components/Subassemblies/Unfinished items have been processed to some extent by the company, but are not yet finished. They may leave production area and be stored off the line, but will still not revert to being called raw material. They already have value added.

Work in process is similar to components, et al. it is actually a mixture of raw materials and components that are currently a part of the production process. So some raw materials may be part of work-in-process, and some components may not be.

Finished goods are simply goods which are finished and ready for sale. They are almost never left in the work area, but are moved out into final storage or packaging.

There is often some ambiguity about classification, since a company may sell some unpainted furniture but paint some for final sale. Is a given unpainted piece to be considered finished goods or not? Perhaps we need a new term for such goods.

My Consultancy–Asif J. Mir – Management Consultant–transforms organizations where people have the freedom to be creative, a place that brings out the best in everybody–an open, fair place where people have a sense that what they do matters. For details please visit www.asifjmir.com, and my Lectures.

Idea Generators


Idea generators are individuals who have the ability to sift through jungles of market and technological information to find ideas that lead to new products or services. They possess the talent and knowledge to find new cost or time effective procedures, approaches, or problem-solving strategies. They possess skill that is deep expertise in one discipline combined with broad enough knowledge in others to see the linkages between them. Such skills are critical in integrating different functions (R&D, design, marketing, manufacturing, customer service) to synthesize a product or service, in seeing the connection between a technology and its applications, or in turning customer expectations into products.

My Consultancy–Asif J. Mir – Management Consultant–transforms organizations where people have the freedom to be creative, a place that brings out the best in everybody–an open, fair place where people have a sense that what they do matters. For details please visit www.asifjmir.com, and my Lectures.

Product Development Process


The product development process involves analysis of the marketplace, the buyer, the company’s capabilities, and the economic potential of new product ideas. This process may be both expensive and time consuming. To accelerate the process, many companies create multidisciplinary teams so that manufacturing and marketing plans can be developed in tandem while the product is being designed.

  1. Generation and Screening of Ideas: The first step is to come up with ideas that will satisfy unmet needs. A producer may get new product ideas from its own employees or from external consultants, it may simply adapt a competitor’s idea, or it may buy the rights to someone else’s invention. Customers are often the best source of new product ideas.
  2. Business Analysis: A product idea that survives the screening stage is subjected to a business analysis. At this point the question is: Can the company make enough money on the product to justify the investment? To answer this question, companies forecast the probable sales of the product, assuming various pricing strategies. In addition, they estimate the costs associated with various levels of production. Given these projections, the company calculates the potential cash flow and return on investment that will be achieved if the product is introduced.
  3. Prototype Development: The next step is generally to create and test a few samples, or prototypes, of the product, including its packaging. During this stage, the various elements of the marketing mix are put together. In addition, the company evaluates the feasibility of large-scale production and specifies the resources required to bring the product to market.
  4. Product Testing: During the product testing stage, a small group of consumers actually use the product, often in comparison tests with existing products. If the results are good, the next step is test marketing, introducing the product in selected areas of the country and monitoring consumer reactions. Test marketing makes the most sense in cases where the cost of marketing a product far exceeds the cost of developing it.
  5. Commercialization: The final stage of development is commercialization, the large-scale production and distribution of those products that have survived the testing process. This phase requires the coordination of many activities—manufacturing, packaging, distribution, pricing and promotion. A classic mistake is letting marketing get out of phase with production so that the consumer is primed to buy the product before the company can supply it in adequate quantity. A mistake of this sort can be costly, because competitors may be able to jump in quickly. Many companies roll out their new products generally, going from one geographic area to the next. This enables them to spread the costs of launching the product over a longer period and to refine their strategy as the rollout proceeds.

My Consultancy–Asif J. Mir – Management Consultant–transforms organizations where people have the freedom to be creative, a place that brings out the best in everybody–an open, fair place where people have a sense that what they do matters. For details please visit www.asifjmir.com, and my Lectures.

Disambiguating Resources


Resources are inputs into a firm’s production process, such as capital equipment, the skills of individual employees, patents, finances, and talented managers. In general, a firm’s resources can be classified into three categories: physical, human, and organizational capital. Resources are either tangible or intangible in nature. With increasing effectiveness, the set of resources available to the firm tends to become larger.

Individual resources alone may not yield a competitive advantage. A sophisticated piece of manufacturing equipment may become a strategically relevant resource only when its use is integrated effectively with other aspects of a firm’s operations (such as marketing and the work of employees). In general, it is through the combination and integration of sets of resources that competitive advantages are formed.

My Consultancy–Asif J. Mir – Management Consultant–transforms organizations where people have the freedom to be creative, a place that brings out the best in everybody–an open, fair place where people have a sense that what they do matters. For details please visit www.asifjmir.com, and my Lectures.

The Deliberate Innovation Strategy


The strategic choice view argues that if an incumbent is not the first to introduce an innovation, it may not be because it has no incentive to invest, its competence has been destroyed, it has not recognized the potential of the innovation, it does not have the complementary assets, it did not use the right adoption mechanism, or it is an environment that is not conducive to innovation. It may be because of the firm’s innovation strategy—its goals, timing, actions, and resource allocation in using new knowledge to offer new products or services. By making the right choices early, a firm can build the right competences and complementary assets, or even shape the kind of environment in which it is going to operate.

There are several innovation strategies: offensive, defensive, imitative, dependent, traditional, and optimistic. A firm with an offensive strategy is the first to introduce new products. If the strategy is to be the first to innovate, it will invest in the innovation and build the capabilities to do so.  In a defensive innovation strategy, a firm waits for a competitor with an offensive strategy to introduce a product first and resolve some of the uncertainties confronting the innovation. The defensive firm then introduces its own product, correcting any mistakes that pioneers may have made.

Firms pursuing a defensive strategy normally have very strong complementary assets—capabilities such as marketing, manufacturing, distribution channels, and reputation which allow a firm to commercialize an invention—and when they decide to move, they do so very quickly. They usually have a strong R&D since it takes knowledge to absorb knowledge. The product is not an imitation of the pioneer’s version but rather a differentiated product, often with better features and lower cost. The firm, in effect, catches up with or leapfrogs the pioneer. Thus not being the first to introduce an innovation may not be a sign of a lack of incentive to invest, competence destruction, absence of appropriate complementary assets, inappropriate adoption mechanism, or being in the wrong environment. It may be because the firm in question has a defensive strategy.

While a firm with a defensive strategy would like to differentiate its products, one with an imitative strategy would like to produce a clone of the pioneer’s product. It has very little attention of catching up with or leapfrogging the pioneer. It usually has such low-cost capabilities as lower labor costs, access to raw materials, and strong manufacturing. In the dependent strategy the firm accepts a subordinate role to a stronger firm. It imitates product changes only when requested by the customer or superior. Many large Japanese firms have these satellite firms. The traditional strategy makes very few changes to products, only striving to offer the lowest cost possible. In the opportunistic strategy the firm looks for some unique needs of a market segment that are not being met—it looks for a niche market. The point in all these other strategies is that a firm’s failure to introduce a product first can be due to its deliberate strategy.

My Consultancy–Asif J. Mir – Management Consultant–transforms organizations where people have the freedom to be creative, a place that brings out the best in everybody–an open, fair place where people have a sense that what they do matters. For details please visit www.asifjmir.com, and my Lectures.

Logistics


The management orientation evolves from an operational focus at Stage 1, through a managerial approach at Stage 11, to the strategic top management level at Stage 111. Simultaneously, the financial orientation evolves from that of cost reduction at Stage 1, to profit maximization in Stage 11, to the optimization of return on investment in Stage 111—the orientation of senior corporate executives.

As logistics organizations take on the appearance of a senior management function, they assume senior-level positions within the company. Fifty-nine percent of the Stage 1 organizations report to general management, 14 percent report to marketing and sales, and 27 percent report to manufacturing. By Stage 111, a distance shift has occurred: 73 percent of logistics organizations report to general management. Thus, it is at Stage 111 that logistics organizations assume a truly top management position in the general management structure.

My Consultancy–Asif J. Mir – Management Consultant–transforms organizations where people have the freedom to be creative, a place that brings out the best in everybody–an open, fair place where people have a sense that what they do matters. For details please visit www.asifjmir.com, and my Lectures.

Organization’s Specific Capabilities


Successful projects are associated with quality performance (proficiency) by one or more key players in the new products operation. A firm’s key players will vary some, depending on strategy, but we usually see the same bunch. First on most lists is technology. But technology does not mean just in research labs. A technology is a system or set of people and things that permit work. A soft drink bottling system is a technology.

In a virtual tie with technology is a bundle of skills in marketing. The needs and desires of the marketplace are an essential input to product innovation. And the end product must be presented to the end user in a way that stimulates trial and adoption. Just as some marketing firms have lacked technical skills, some technical firms have lacked marketing skills.

A new member of the triad is operations/manufacturing—maybe a factory, a laboratory, a set of carpet cleaning franchisees, an actuarial department in an insurance company, or even the legislature in a government. It is where the good or service is prepared or offered. It could be the classroom where this subject is discussed tomorrow. No matter how well designed or marketed, if the organization cannot deliver on the promised product, success cannot be assured. In the best firms today, manufacturing capability begins its development at the very start of the project, and may even be decided in the strategy if that is where the technology strength is located.

There are some other capabilities needed today, though the list is industry dependent. Two skills are moving up the list—human resource management (HRM) and technology (IT). They both relate to how new product projects are being managed today. HRM people are apparently critical in building the inventory of potential team leaders, and in training those selected for this most difficult task. IT people hold the answer to collocation, the physical grouping of teams that contribute so much to a new product project. Their answer: digital collocation, or the virtual collocated team. On a slightly broader plain, IT also permits effective networking, something we will see actually makes the “company within a company: that new products projects become.

My Consultancy–Asif J. Mir – Management Consultant–transforms organizations where people have the freedom to be creative, a place that brings out the best in everybody–an open, fair place where people have a sense that what they do matters. For details please visit www.asifjmir.com, and my Lectures.

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