Needs for trade- offs - business strategy, Operation Management

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Needs for Trade- offs - Business Strategy

In recent years another reason for questioning the need for trade-offs has arisen. In manufacturing industries great efforts have been expended in developing process technologies, and in particular the application of computers, to create production systems capable of mass customisation. Unlike a mass production system, which produces a standard product at low cost, a mass customisation system would produce 'specials' (traditionally the province of the high-cost job shop) at similar low cost. Such a system has been developed by Levi Strauss, the jeans manufacturer, allowing customers to have their jeans made to measure.

The customer's sizes are sent electronically to the factory, where a computer-driven production system automatically produces the jeans to the specified sizes. A few days later the customer may collect the jeans. Impressive though such technology may be, it raises issues. What then to measure? Ideally, the measures chosen will relate directly to the business qualifiers and order winners. However, care is required in the choice of operations performance measures; the order winners themselves may be inappropriate. For example, consider a business which has identified low price as the prime order winner. Price is an external (market) variable, which may rise or fall for reasons other than operational performance eg in response to competitors' pricing, sales promotions, seasonal price variations, etc. It would be unreasonable to measure the week-to-week performance of operations personnel on the basis of such a variable, which can change substantially for reasons outwith their control. What is needed is an internal (operational) variable, relevant to the order winner concerned: in the case of price it might be appropriate to measure unit cost, labour productivity or equipment utilisation.

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