Manufacturing technology management : key issues in the adoption, implementation and evaluation of advanced manufacturing technology (1994)
AuthorsSuresh, Balanshow all
Over the past decade, the declining competitiveness of U.S. and European manufacturers had received considerable attention. Various studies have documented their weakening competitive position in global markets; the decline of their manufacturing base; and the continued closure of manufacturing plants in U.S. and Europe. Attention has been focused on manufacturing strategy and technological innovations in manufacturing as providing possible solutions to these growing problems. The adoption and implementation of new manufacturing technologies, known collectively as advanced manufacturing technology (AMT), has offered the promise of successfully competing in global markets. Specifically, these technologies have offered advantages in the areas that U.S. and European manufacturers need to address: flexibility, quality, shorter product life cycles, and shorter product development cycles. However, there are two major concerns: (1) U.S. and European manufacturers have been slow to adopt advanced process technology, and (2) those firms which did adopt these new technologies have had limited success in their implementation.
In spite of its growing importance in manufacturing, management generally has limited experience with AMT and few guidelines to assist them in the transition from the factory of today to the factory of the future. This research study aims to provide an in-depth, integrative approach to addressing the issues involved in the adoption, implementation and evaluation of AMT by focusing on the experience of organisations pursuing a strategy of automation.
Using a multiple case research methodology at plant level, the first part of the study investigates the reasons why European firms choose to adopt advanced manufacturing technologies and the decision making process involved in justifying them. In addition, this study identifies obstacles to justification and provides an understanding of how firms have either ignored or overcome these obstacles. The decision to adopt AMT is only the first step in becoming or remaining competitive. Such technologies need to be successfully implemented to achieve desired benefits. The study also investigates how firms managed their AMT implementation and the obstacles that were encountered. In addition, those factors that contribute to or impede the successful implementation of AMT are identified. The difficulties of performing post-implementation evaluations by these firms are also examined. Emphasising the use of automation as a management decision concerned only with manufacturing is not sufficient. Wider issues in the management of manufacturing technology also need to be addressed. This study highlights the importance of top management involvement in new technology development, time-based competition, and outsourcing of technology in the management of manufacturing technology. It is hoped that by offering general explanations of the key issues in the management processes of adoption, implementation and evaluation of AMT, management will be assisted in their future efforts in dealing with these processes.
The participating firms identified both individual and synergistic benefits from the application of AMT in the competitive performance measures in manufacturing, cost, quality, delivery, and flexibility. They also underscored the importance of incorporating technology management issues while formulating business strategies, because these issues were believed to influence the business performance measures, profitability level, generation of increased sales, and creation of new opportunities and facilities. Using questionnaire surveys of the participating firms, the second part of this study explores the relationships between the management processes of AMT and performance measures in manufacturing, and between some factors of effective management of technology identified in this study, and the business performance measures of a firm. Tests of hypotheses formulated confirm that the perceived benefits in manufacturing performance could be achieved. Additional statistical analyses show that, through effective management of technology, the business performance measures of a firm could be improved.