The objective of this paper is two-pronged. First, the paper will attempt to give a critical discussion of the factors that influence manufacturing process design. Secondly, the paper will discuss how implementation of the principles of lean manufacturing may optimize efficiencies while improving customer service and minimizing costs. These two aspects will be discussed in relation to Lin Products, a leading electronics manufacturer from Scotland. In summary, the main factors affecting the companys manufacturing process design include cost of production, market fit, level of market demand, industry standards and regulations, and customers expectations. Implementation of lean principles can help the company to reduce wastage, improve quality of products, enhance customer service and achieve great financial benefits.
Operations and Information Management
Process design is one of the most important elements in operations management. It refers to the alignment of business processes and procedures to meet the set organizational objectives while at the same time satisfying customer needs. All firms regardless of whether they operate in the service-based or manufacturing-based industries must implement appropriate process designs to ensure efficiency in the delivery of quality and relevant products and services to customers. The choice of the most efficient manufacturing or service design depends on several factors, which are in turn related to the industry, nature of the product itself and customers expectations. These factors explain the variations seen in the way firms design their processes. This paper will provide a critical analysis of the factors that influence the companys manufacturing process design with reference to Linn Products. The paper will also discuss how the implementation of lean principles may optimize efficiencies while improving customer service and minimizing costs. About Linn ProductsLinn Products is a Scottish engineering company that specializes in the manufacturing of audio and HiFi equipment. Linn has earned a global reputation as the designer and manufacturer of the best sound systems in the world. The companys flagship product, the Sondek LP12 record player, which was launched in 1972 set new standards for HiFi. This paper will focus on the manufacturing process design of Linns HiFi systems.
Factors that Influence the Manufacturing Process Design of Linns HiFi Systems
Customers Quality Expectations
Customers quality expectations constitute one of the most important factors that influence Linns manufacturing process design. In any industry, customers are the most important stakeholder group. Among other considerations, customers expect high-quality products that not only meet their needs but also give good value for the money spent on acquiring them (Heizer and Render, 2011, p. 39). Therefore, it is imperative that companies take into account the issue of product quality when designing products. More specifically, operations managers have a responsibility to ensure that the products developed by their companies are consistent with the highest quality standards possible.
To ensure that high standards of quality are maintained, Linn encourages its staff to be creative and innovative. It is through creativity that the company can come up with great ideas for improving the quality of its Hi-Fi systems. Another important approach that ensures the quality of processes at Linn is a constant review of products and customer feedback. Linn has implemented a robust program that involves a comprehensive review of each product, as well as the processes involved in the manufacturing of the products. Through these reviews, it is easier for the company to make the necessary adjustments and corrections in case a product or process does not conform to the required quality standards (Krajewski, Ritzman and Malhorta, 2013, p. 39).
It is important to note that the issue of quality in process design has been deeply embedded in Linn's organizational culture. The company has taken appropriate measures to educate its employees about the significance of quality as the primary consideration in the design of company products. Accordingly, all employees (including those in the manufacturing and support services) are fully aware of the companys quality standards. The keen attention that employees pay to process design quality is responsible for the high reputation associated with the companys Hi-Fi systems. Across the world, Linns sound systems are known for their high efficiency and superior performance that is unmatched.
Linn takes several other measures to ensure high quality of its products. One of these measures is the willingness to incur extra cost to refine its manufacturing processes. This way, the company can develop reliable systems and satisfy its customers across all product categories. Overall, a strong focus on the quality of manufacturing processes has enabled Linn to achieve strong competitive advantages in the industry. For more than five decades, the company has been able to maintain a leadership position despite the intense competitive pressures in the market. All these achievements attest to the superiority of the companys process designs.
The need to maintain low production costs and achieve high returns is a critical factor in the design of Linns manufacturing processes. Chase, Jacobs, and Aquilano (2007, p. 468) define the cost of production as the value of all investments that are incurred to develop a particular product. These include the expense incurred to purchase equipment, raw material, labor and capital costs. Linn's objective about the cost of production is to ensure that all business processes are cost-effective and that they contribute to the companys objective of constant growth. One of the strategies used by Linn is the establishment of strategic relationships with suppliers. The company purchases its raw materials from a wide range of suppliers and can get huge discounts leading to the low cost of production. These costs are in turn passed on to the consumers in the form of reduced product prices.
Another major strategy used by Linn to keep production costs low is the outsourcing of certain business processes and components to other companies. Normally, most components used in the electronic industry are manufactured in Asian countries where the cost of production is lower than in Europe or the Americas. Accordingly, Linn has outsourced the production of most of its components to companies based in Asia. The strategy of outsourcing not only helps Linn in reducing manufacturing costs but also ensures that the company can get high-quality components, which are used in the production of its products. Since the services outsourced are non-essential, the company can focus on its core services, which are the design of products.
Outsourcing of some business and component development processes also helps the company to mitigate risks. It can be noted that Linn's raw materials, components, and equipment are outsourced from dozens of manufacturing companies in Asia. This way, Linn can avoid supply chain risks by ensuring a constant supply of the required resources. Linn is further reducing costs by creating strong partnerships with companies outside the electronic industries. For example, it has partnered with shipping companies and distributors. These partnerships give the company cost advantages that are critical to its sustained profitability.
The Need for Flexibility
Flexibility in process design refers to the ability to make changes in the product without causing any significant disruptions or cost escalations. Flexibility is an important consideration in process design because the improvement in product quality depends on incremental enhancements to the previous designs (Chase, Jacobs, and Aquilano, 2007, p. 32). Flexibility can be achieved by incorporating changes in what the customer wants, in how competitors respond to market dynamics and in the technologies used in the processes. The more flexible a process is, the more it is likely that a firm will make useful changes to the product design with the aim of improving quality and customer satisfaction.
The degree of dynamism inherent in the global electronics and technologies industry means that companies must adopt a flexible business process to maintain their competitiveness in the industry. For Linn Products, flexibility encompasses the ease with which the product design team can change certain aspects of the company's products. These aspects range from quality and shape to the nature of materials used in the manufacturing. Lack of flexibility may, at the very minimum, make it difficult for the company to satisfy the ever-changing needs of customers. It may also cause difficulties when replacing or upgrading obsolete systems and processes. The need for greater flexibility is intense in the electronics industry because capabilities of various electronics products such as sound systems change after a few years. This pace is bound to increase in response to advances in technology.
Across the world, Linn is known for manufacturing upgraded or enhanced versions of its sound systems. For instance, the company has released several versions of its Sondek hi-fi systems. Each of these versions shows improvements compared to the previous versions. The improvements are a result of rigorous research and development efforts. The improvements also incorporate customers feedback, as well as the creative ideas of the companys employees (particularly the product design team). The desire to embrace flexibility as a guiding principle in the design of Linns products has enabled the company to maintain strong competitive advantages in the industry and stay ahead of rivals in the market.
Industry Standards and Government Regulations
The electronics industry is subject to the various standards and regulations set by different authorities. These standards and regulations have a direct influence on Linns choice of processes design strategies. Some of the aspects of process design that are subject to regulations include material quality standards and environmental impact (Chase, Jacobs, and Aquilano, 2007, p. 471). As a matter of circumstance, all electronics manufacturing companies are required by law to adhere to set standards regarding solid and hazardous waste management and air emissions. These regulations are directly applicable to Linn and must be incorporated in all its business processes. Regardless of how flexible and cost-effective the company's process design systems are, it is imperative to observe the required environmental standards to avoid conflicts with authorities.
Given that Linns products are sold in many countries across the world, it is important for the company to observe not only the British standards and regulations bu...
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