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Discussion Questions

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Chapter 1: Introduction

  1. What are the major areas of responsibility for operations managers?
  2. Why is it important to go beyond the organization-specific, input/ processes/ output model in modern day operations management?
  3. What challenges does Servitization pose for modern day operations?
  4. What global opportunities and challenges are there for organizations today?
  5. What strategic questions do firms need to deal with when being involved in global operations?

Chapter 2: Strategy

  1. What are the links between operations strategy and business strategy?
  2. What are the problems that might be faced in formulating an operations strategy?
  3. Why have operations and business strategies become separated in some firms over time?
  4. Why is operations strategy vitally important in modern day operations management?
  5. Discuss the Hill model and the Brown and Blackmon Resonance approach to forming operations strategy. Choose any industry and apply these models to them.

Chapter 3: Supply

  1. What are the challenges facing Operations Managers in obtaining competitive advantage from proficiency in supply management? Use examples from a heavy manufacturing industry, a light manufacturing industry, a service sector organization using materials and a service organization with almost no materials.
  2. Give examples of ways in which organizations might achieve differentiation in their own sale market by managing supply in new ways.
  3. What factors in their own market position might influence an organization on their approach to managing supplier relationships?
  4. Trace the influence of Henry Ford to today’s supply relationships: What techniques may be attributed to his ideas of mass production and in what ways are they now being questioned in the light of lean thinking?
  5. In what ways are customers and suppliers competitors and collaborators? How would this apply if one of them has a monopoly?

Chapter 4: Innovation

  1. ‘Invention is not enough’ was the response given by a major designer/manufacturer when asked about the secrets of successful innovation. What other factors need to be managed to ensure a good idea makes it through to successful implementation?
  2. What factors (for example, sector, type of product, etc.) might shape the ways in which a particular firm needs to go about the innovation process? How might they affect its management?
  3. Introducing process innovation – change in ‘the way we do things around here’ – can be thought of in the same way as trying to launch a new product in the commercial marketplace. What similarities and differences might there be between the two, and what messages emerge for successful management of both?
  4. ‘Innovation is a survival imperative, not a luxury!’ Thinking of an organization with which you are familiar, think about whether this statement applies – and if it does, what kinds of innovation can you trace in its history? What triggered them – and what difference did they make?
  5. The innovation process operates in parallel with those concerned with the present-day operations – managing supply through to satisfying customers. Inevitably there will be points of conflict between managing today and building for the future. Where do you think these ‘flashpoints’ might emerge – and how would you deal with them as an Operations Manager?

Chapter 5: Sustainability

  1. What are the priorities for operations strategists in gathering information about sustainability?
  2. How might you work best with other organizations (e.g. suppliers) to bring about improvements in sustainable operations?
  3. Over the next five years, how will the geography of your operations strategy change and what will influence it?
  4. How might sustainability fit with lean approaches?
  5. How might sustainability fit with innovation?

Chapter 6: Human resources

  1. It is commonplace to hear managers and chairmen of companies say that ‘People are our biggest asset’ – but often this is nothing more than words.  In what ways can people make a difference to the way a business operates -–and how can this potential be realized?
  2. How and why has human resource management moved from a simple concern with recruitment and reward to a more strategic role in the business?  In what ways is people management becoming a central concern for strategic operations managers – and in what ways can they enable human resources to make a strategically important contribution to the business?
  3. In the 1980s there was great enthusiasm for the ‘lights out’ factory – a totally automated operation in which almost no people would be required.  30 years later, why do you think this idea has fallen from favour, and why are advanced organizations in many sectors now seeing people as a key resource in their businesses?
  4. ‘The beauty of it is that with every pair of hands you get a free brain!’  This quote from a manager highlights the potential of employee involvement, but the fact remains that most organizations still do not manage to engage their workforce on a systematic and sustained basis.  What are the main barriers to doing so – and how would you do, as a SOM, to try and increase active employee involvement in continuous improvement of the business?
  5. Many pictures of the future stress themes like ‘the learning organization’ or ‘the knowledge based business’.  Such visions are likely to depend on human resources and achieving them poses challenges for how such resources are recruited developed and managed.  How can SOM’s contribute to the design and operation of such organizations?

Chapter 7: Managing the transformation process

  1. Describe how types of layout are often linked to process choice.
  2. What clues does process choice provide concerning how a company
  3. competes?
  4. Why is investment in process technology often a difficult decision to make?
  5. Describe the differences between order wining, order qualifying, and pre-qualifying criteria.
  6. Why have agile production and mass customization emerged as important strategic issues for operations management?

Chapter 8: Managing quality

  1. ‘Quality is free!’ proclaimed the title of Philip Crosby’s book in the 1970s.  In what ways can investments in developing quality management in the business pay for themselves and make a difference to the overall bottom line of the company?
  2. ‘Total’ quality management involves an integrated approach combining tools, strategy, structure and involvement.  What are the key components in a successful programme and how can strategic operations managers establish and sustain TQM in organizations?
  3. What do you think are the main barriers to effective implementation of TQM – and how might they be overcome?
  4. Why does quality matter to a business?
  5. Quality management used to be a specialist function carried out by a specialist manager.  Why has it become a mainstream task and a key part of the SOM’s job?  How can SOMs contribute to creating businesses capable of competing on quality?
  6. How might a well-designed TQM programme fail in the long-term – and what steps might you take, as an Operations Manager, to ensure that it stays alive and effective?

Chapter 9: Managing inventory

  1. Why has inventory management emerged as a strategic factor?
  2. What is the main difference between a push and pull system?
  3. What internal and external capabilities need to be in place for successful JIT?
  4. What are the shortcomings of the EOQ solution?
  5. Why is ABC analysis of value in relation to buyer‒supplierrelationships?

Chapter 10: Capacity and scheduling management

  1. How well do firms really understand the four Vs of their business and the concepts of perishability and predictability?
  2. How should firms go about making the choice between improving their existing approach to capacity and scheduling management or radically changing their process to reconfigure the notion of capacity?
  3. Why is it strategically important to understand global capacity and industry capacity?
  4. Apply any fiveapproaches to scheduling to an organization of your choice and explain what were the challenges you faced in doing so.
  5. ‘There are no perfect solutions to scheduling’ Why is the case and what can be done to help manage scheduling strategically?

Chapter 11: Managing service operations

  1. To what extent are there major differences between manufacturing and service operations?
  2. Why are services so important to the global economy?
  3. What are the threats that many service organizations face in terms of competition?
  4. Why is focus so important when managing services?
  5. How would you apply the Iceberg principle to each of the following? A bank, a hotel, a restaurant.

Chapter 12: The future of operations management

  1. What new skills need to be developed in operations managers for the future and what are the implications for human resources strategies?
  2. How might the regional economies of the world change in the next ten years and what are the implications for operations managers?
  3. How might churn in process innovation differ from its implications in product churn?
  4. Is the answer to the future challenges increased globalization or networked individual national entities?
  5. With which other organizational functions must operations management work to address future challenges, and in what ways?