Human Performance in Planning and Scheduling

By Bart MacCarthy; John Wilson | Go to book overview

CHAPTER EIGHTEEN

A Socio-technical Approach to the Design of a Production Control System: Towards Controllable Production Units

Jannes Slomp and Gwenny C. Ruël


18.1

INTRODUCTION

Many companies are facing tighter market demands regarding the price, quality, variety and delivery time of their products. They will have to arrange the production organization so that these demands can be met. This often implies a restructuring of the means of production or a change in the structure and system of production. Flexible, automated means of production are purchased and thus arranged to allow an efficient and effective product flow. Many firms have also decided to apply cellular manufacturing, or team production, to be competitive in the market place. Usually production control, too, needs to be adapted. There will be growing pressure to balance sales and production and to use the means of production and the workforce as efficiently and effectively as possible. The contribution of this chapter is to explore the application of concepts from socio-technical systems design to the production control domain and demonstrate its applicability with a case study. Brown et al. (1988, pp. 266-267) mention the need to apply socio-technical principles in the design of a production control system. In their opinion, 'the relative failure of many “production management systems” (here: production control systems) can be explained, at least partially, in terms of the lack of a true socio-technical approach to the design and installation of these systems'. (p.266). They criticize the overemphasis on the technical aspects of production control systems and argue that disappointments arise because of failure to give regard to the social aspect system. Hyer et al., (1999) present a case study illustrating 'a socio-technical systems approach to cell design'. Part of the cell design, as they present it, concerns the determination of production planning and activity control procedures. An important socio-technical aspect of this part of the cell design is, in their case study, the fact that cell operators were assumed responsible for material ordering, job tracking, and scheduling. This ensured a certain level of autonomy for each manufacturing cell. The decentralization of control tasks required user-friendly information systems and training of the operators to use the new simplified systems. A material council (with representatives from each cell and production planning) was made responsible for the development of information flow procedures across the cells.

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