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Operations management plays a fundamental role in any business, especially in this age of information technology when everything depends on applications and automated systems. Advanced technology in operations management is used mainly in the activities of product and process design, manufacturing planning and control, production process and their integration (Greasley, 1999). Operation managers should continually be involved in the management of process technologies in organizations. Pycraft (2000) says that operations managers should be able to articulate how technology can improve the operation’s effectiveness, integrate the technology into the rest of the operation and ensure that adoption of the technology so that it does not interfere with ongoing operations activities.
Since 1980’s there have been several technological advancements in operations management. Pycraft (2000) indicated that behind almost all of these technological advances is one dominant factor: the availability of commercially available low-cost micro-processing. There are three advancements in technology as used in operations management. The first one is materials processing technologies used in manufacturing operations. Pycraft (2000) says that materials processing technologies have improved efficiency in operations management because they advance the way materials are physically moved and how the manufacturing systems which include the technology are organized.
The second one is customer processing technologies mainly used in retail, medical, hotel and transport operations. An example of customer processing technology is customer relationship management system (CRMs). The third one is information processing technologies as used mostly in financial services operations. Examples of information processing technologies include accounting systems and enterprise resource planning applications (ERPs) (Pycraft, 2000).
How might information technology systems be used in operations management to improve the business process?
Information technology is used in financial services, communications, health care, education, hotel services, telemarketing and leisure services to improve business processes Greasley (1999). He further says that information technology has been used to replace the role of a human service in operations management. Greasley (1999) noted that information technology should involve interaction between the customer and service delivery system. This implies that information technologies should assist activities such as diagnosis, customer order processing, goods tracking and monitoring.
In addition, Blokdijk (2008) commented that to manage business effectively in this information technology era, organizations need proper management of operations which involves manufacturing of goods and services. Information technology in operations management improves business processes such as management of resources, and delivery of goods to clients. Blokdijk (2008) also says that “information technology will improve planning, scheduling, control of production or service and enables value-added activities that change inputs into numerous outputs” (p. 44). Significantly, information technology can manage and control a constructive workflow using available resources and provisions.
Describe a familiar situation in which information technology systems were used appropriately in operations management.
Information technology alone cannot to successful execution of operations management functions. Schniederjans (1998) says that information technology must be integrated coherently and synergistically into broader operations management strategy whose tactics and operational plans must support the service components. The operations management must ensure that any technological application can be adapted to local network conditions (Schniederjans, 1998).
SAP a German based software company has over the time used information technology in operations management in the healthcare industry. Schniederjans (1998) says that SAP offered an excellent general ledger system for healthcare information systems for back office operations. However when SAP entered the United States market it found out that the operations management trends in North America required a more broadly integrated set of capabilities that is a system that would also include cost accounting, electronic patient records and resource scheduling (Schniederjans, 1998).
As a result SAP restructured its software to include front end management operations as well as back end operations. This change in software technology not only helped SAP to sell in the U.S market but also helped to improve operations in healthcare industry in which it was being used. The adoption of SAP in the healthcare operations improved planning, scheduling, control and of service delivery to customers.
In conclusion it is important to note that within operations management, there should be a continued objective of improving customer service and processes. This can be achieved by integrating the functions of the operations department with information technology with a greater product orientation. The service, front-line and back office operations should be designed in order to add value to customer service and improve efficiency within the company. Adoption of technology is the key to a company’s realization of competitive advantage and global expansion.