The Operations Function has always relied heavily on information for its smooth running. During this course information has been introduced as one of the five inputs to the conversion process however it is now necessary to think of information not as a discrete input but as an entity that permeates and is attached to all parts of the conversion process and wider business. In addition to the more tangible and physical inputs required in terms of material, staff, facilities and capital a variety of information is required to accompany these such as: ?
How much of each type of material is required for this production run?
How many man-hours of labour are needed to complete this job?
What is the unit cost of each manufactured item?
What is the capability of this process?
While information has always been necessary more recently, with growing technological sophistication in both products and markets, the amount of information required has increased, the diversity in types of information available has grown and the methods of managing information have become more varied.
Information has therefore become more critical to the efficiency and competitive advantage of the organisation. Increasingly it has become the responsibility of the operations manager to define the information required by the organisation and to provision methods that capture, store and disseminate it whether it be for completion of work by those within the conversion process or for use in decision-making by those at the top of the organisation. In this chapter we will look at the basic building blocks of an Information System (IS). We will then define the term information and explain how it can be made useful to the organisation. We will go on to discuss the processes used to produce useable information and how to build these processes into our operation. Finally, the impact of increased use of technology on people within the organisation will be discussed.
Here are some key questions that you should consider as you read this chapter:
- ? What information is crucial to your organisation?
- ? How is this information gathered and used?
- ? Can the use of an appropriate IS within your organisation lead to some previously unseen competitive advantage?