Category Archives: The Role of Technology in Operations

Technology in Manufacturing.


The term automation is familiar to all. but a commonly agreed-upon definition still eludes us Some authorities view automation as a totally new set of concepts that relate to the automatic operation of a production process: others view it simply as an evolutionary development in technology in which machinery performs some or all of the process control function. Automation is a set of concepts. but it is also evolutionary in the sense that it is a logical and predictable step in the development of equipment and processes.

Some major developments in manufacturing automation include machining centers numerically controlled machines. industrial robots computer aided design and manufacturing systems flexible manufacturing systems  computer-integrated manufacturing  and islands of automation.

Machining centers not only provide automatic control of a machine but carry out automatic tooling changes as well. For example, a single machine may be equipped with a shuttle system of two worktable that can be rolled into and out of the machine. While work is being done at one at don the one  table on the second table. When machining on the first table is complete. it is moved out of the way and the second part  is moved into  position.

Numerically controlled t~C) machines are under the control of a digital computer. Feedback control loops determine the position of the' machine tooling during the work. constantly compare the actual location with the programmed location. and correct as needed. This eliminates time lost during setups. and applied to both high-volume. standardized  types of products as well as low-volume, custom zero round .

Industrial robots are substitutes for human manipulation and other highly repetitive functions. A robot is are programmable machine with multiple functions that an move devices through specialized motions perform any number of tasks is essentially a mechanized arm that can be fitted with a variety of hand like fingers or grippers, Vacuum cup or a tool such as a wrench. Robots are capable of performing many factory operations ranging from machining processes to simple assembly.

One of the major contemporary approaches to the product design process is compute raided (or -assisted) design (CAD). CAD may be defined as carrying out all structural of a product or component at a specially be visualized by rotating the product on the screen. and individual components can be enlarged to examine particular characteristic. Depending on the sophistication in software. on screen testing may replace the early phases of and modification. CAD has been used to design everything from computer chips to potato chips.

Frito- Lay, for example. used CAD to design its Grady 's double-density, ruffled potato chip. CAD is also now being used to custom design swimsuits. Measurements of the wearer are fed into the CAD program, along with the style of suit desired. Working with the customer. the designer modifies the suit design as it appears on a human form drawing on the computer screen. Once the design is decided upon, the computer prints out a pattern. and the suit is cut and sewn on the spot.

Computer-aided design and manufacturing (CAD/CAM) uses a computer to integrate component design and processing instructions. In current CAD/CAM systems, when the design is finalized, the link to CAM is made by producing the manufacturing instructions. Because of the efficiency of CAD/CAM systems. design and manufacture of small lots can be both fast and low in cost. Even though CAD/CAM systems are usually limited to larger companies because of the high initial cost, they do increase productivity and quality dramatically. More eternal active designs can be produced, and the specifications can be more exact. Updates can be more readily made, and cost estimates more easily drawn. In addition, computer-aided process planning (CAP) can shorten and, in some cases. even eliminate traditional process planning.

A flexible manufacturing system (FMS) actually refers to a number of systems that differ in the degree of mechanization, automated transfer, and computer control and are sufficiently flexible to produce a wide variety of products. A flexible manufacturing module is a numerically controlled (NC) machine supported with a parts inventory, a tool changer, and a pallet changer. A flexible manufacturing cell consists of several flexible manufacturing modules organized according to the particular product's requirements. A flexible manufacturing group is a combination of flexible manufacturing modules and cells located in the same manufacturing area and joined by a materials handling system, such as an automated guided vehicle (AGV). A flexible production system consists of flexible manufacturing groups that connect different manufacturing areas, such as fabrication, machining, and assembly. A flexible manufacturing line is a series of dedicated machines connected by AGVs, robots, conveyors, or some other type of automated transfer device.

Computer-integrated manufacturing (CIM) integrates all aspects of production into one automated system. Design, testing, fabrication. assembly, inspection. and materials handling may all have automated functions within the area. However. in most companies, communication between departments still flows by means of paperwork. In CIM, these islands of automation are integrated, thus eliminating the need for the paperwork. A computer links all sectors together, resulting in more efficiency, less paperwork, and less personnel expense. Islands of automation refer to the transition from conventional manufacturing to the
automated factory. Typical islands of automation include numerically controlled machine tools, robots, automated storage retrieval systems, and machining centers.


How Technology Affects Operations

How Technology Affects Operations

Operations strategy defines the way in which a firm competes in the marketplace. Examples of these strategies include (a) low cost, (b) quality, (c) speed of delivery, and (d) customization. As we learned in Chapter 2, managers in the past had to decide which of these strategies was most applicable to the particular market segment they were serving. In so doing, they recognized that there were trade-offs involved. For example. you couldn't have both low cost and a high degree of customization. or that there was a choice to be made between providing fast product delivery and providing a highly customized product. These traditional trade-offs are no longer valid for most businesses because technology has "raised the performance bar" by allowing firms to compete on several of these dimensions simultaneously. For example, firms using technology, such as Dell Computer.can now produce and quickly deliver individually customized products. and at a very competitive price. Technology now provides firms with the opportunity to move to a "superior" performance curve, as previously presented in Chapter 2; and shown again in Exhibit 4.1

How Technology Affects Operations

How Technology Affects Operations

In moving from AI to 81• a firm. for example, can achieve superior performance in terms of both lower cost and also faster service  In comparison on a firm that doesn't use technology must remain on Curve A and consequently must revert to the traditional trade-off where improvement in one dimension is accomplished only at the sacrifice of another dimension (for example. ill going  form A2 to A3 along Curve A, where lower cost is achieved only by providing lower service).



After completing some business in the LA area, I returned my rental car to the Avis parking lot at Los Angeles International Airport (lAX) As I started to get out of the car and unload my bags, an Avis attendant greeted me with a handheld computer and asked me for a copy of my rental agreement I said to him, “Don’t bother. I need to go to the check-in desk anyway, as I forgot to give Avis my frequent flyer number when I rented the car last week  No problem  he replied, “I can handle that here too, so-you don’t have to go to the desk.” Impressed by his ability to handle this non routine activity with his handheld computer  I commented, ‘To day’s technology is truly amazing To which he curtly answered, “It’s only a tool Caught off guard by his statement, I asked him to explain what he meant. He continued “It’s only a tool. Just like a wrench is only as good as the mechanic who has been trained to use it, so technology is only as good as the people who have been properly trained to use it in their everyday work To which I could only respond, “You’re 100 percent right Source  Mark M. Davis. The hand-held computer is just one of many technology tools that Avis uses to improve its operations in terms of both increased efficiency and better customer service. For example, customers now have a choice of making a reservation either online at the Avis website or by speaking with a customer representative at a call center. Technology in the form of software allows Avis to (a) use yield management techniques (which are discussed in a later chapter) to maximize revenues, (b) schedule workers. and (e) forecast demand for both cars and customer calls.

The Role of Technology in Operations

Chapter Objectives

• Introduce the different ways in which technology can add value to the operations function within an organization.

• Identify the various ways in which technology can be used in a manufacturing company.

• Describe enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems and how they impact an organization.

• Demonstrate the different ways in which technology can be integrated into service operations.

• Present a framework for defining the different types of e-services that are currently being offered.