A Supplement to: Production and Operations Management: An Applied Modern Approach

As part of my second-level operations management courses, students perform field projects at actual companies. In these projects they observe actual operations, collect data, analyze their information, and devise improvements to the operations. (Often they use their own place of employment.) Many students are able to develop significant operations improvements. The following is a summary of some of their efforts. These may give you ideas on how you can use the material in this course for your own job. If you confront operations management issues in your job, please use the "Share Your Operations Management Experiences" page to tell us all about it. We will select the best ones for posting here and may profile you in an "On the Job" box in a future edition of the book.

Student 1: This student studied the parcel sorting and loading operations of a major parcel delivery company. Parcels are brought to an airport sorting facility by trucks, where they are sorted by destination and loaded into containers (or "cans") that are then loaded onto airplanes. Sorted loads must be ready at specified times to match the arrival and departures of several cargo flights each day. Cargo arriving from flights must also be unloaded and sorted for local delivery by trucks. Coordinating the sorting, loading, and unloading within strict time windows is a major scheduling and staffing problem. One of the problems identified was excessive handling and moving of the containers. By reconfiguring the containers (their locations on the line), the amount of material handling and container movement was reduced substantially, and set-up for the next sort was simplified. When these changes were implemented, turnaround time for a sort was reduced by almost 10 minutes - a huge improvement for a 200 person operation with time windows of 2-4 hours to perform sorts.

Student 2: (Actually a team of two students): These students studied the operation of a stamping press that made side bars for heating and cooling units. The team observed the operation of the press, including set-ups, and constructed worker-machine charts that kept track of what the machine and operator were doing over time. The team was able to develop improvements in the set-up procedures, including a redesign of the fastening method to clamp and unclamp the dies to the press. They also redesigned the scrap collection and emptying method. These changes cut set-up time almost in half and improved operation efficiency by over 25%.

Student 3: This student worked as a teller at a bank. Her bank claimed to be a customer service leader, yet she felt that waiting lines were much too long, especiallly on Fridays, and other high demand days, such as the 1st and 15th of the month. She studied the operations of the bank, collected waiting time data for customers, and constructed "worker-customer" charts to determine the causes of delays. She identified several causes of service delays: customers not being prepared when they approach the window for a transaction, transaction forms being poorly designed, and poorly organized employee work areas. By redesigning transaction forms, repositioning a work table to make it more convenient for customers, redesigning the waiting line so customers could get to available tellers more easily, and by providing each teller with his or her own supplies, rather than sharing some supplies that delayed processing, her recommendations resulted in shorter transaction service times and shorter waiting lines.

Student 4: This student worked on the production line of a company that manufactured gaskets, seals, and other industrial parts. As a project he studied the production of a new product that was causing serious problems for his company. The product was a gasket with a rubber seal inserted and bonded to the brass gasket. The company was having serious quality problems (50% defect rate), and poor productivity. By carefully studying the causes of the defects, he redesigned the rubber insert (using an overlapping design) so that it would seal better. This change, along with a few other changes reduced the defect rate to under 0.2%. The loading and unloading of gaskets into a curing oven (in batches of 64) was very slow because they had to be mounted on a mold, and only one mold existed. So new gaskets could not be put on the mold until the previous batch had been removed, This student created a "dummy" mold out of plywood, exactly like the actual mold. The dummy mold could then be loaded with gaskets while the preceding batch was being cured. When the cured gaskets were removed from the actual mold, he was able to place the actual mold on top of the dummy mold, which was loaded with 64 gaskets, then flip them over, and the gaskets were now loaded onto the actual mold. This reduced the gasket loading time from 80 seconds per batch to 20 seconds.

Student 5: This student worked in a frozen yogurt shop owned by her sister. A major problem they had was a long start-up time in the morning (3 hours) preparing the equipment and shop for opening. Because she did not like arriving so early in the morning, she had an incentive to find ways to improve the start-up procedure. By using quick set-up techniques, including some minor modification of facilities and equipment, she was able to cut the startup time from 3 hours to 2 hours. This saved the owner money, and made staffing easier.

These are just a few examples of how students are able to use the material in this book/course immediately. You don't have to be a professional consultant or engineer to analyze your own job and business operations and make improvements. It is just a matter of observation, data collection, analysis, and creativity. Please, let us hear from you about your job


Wiley's College Division

Page Owner: Joseph Martinich (Joseph.Martinich@umsl.edu)
Last Updated: May 22, 1998

Copyright 1997, John Wiley & Sons, Inc.