Thornton Printing Company’s Operations Management Problem

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Introduction

The modern day organizations have to excel in mass customization, agile manufacturing, customer centric provision and lean production. The ability of an organization to succeed in all those activities resides within its ability to facilitate its operational communication strategies (Stevenson 768). Operation management in a company deals with process design, layout, production planning, and inventory control. It also deals with capacity planning, workforce management and quality management and control. Operation management is the backbone of every business and all functions of an organization relate to it. Thus an organization with a poor operation management fails automatically. One basic concept that can help facilitate the operational activities is communication. This article will give an example of Thornton printing company which experienced the problem of poor communication strategies which resulted into poor quality control in its operations. This subsequently led to poor performance in the competitive market. It will also give an explanation on the process of ensuring quality management, give relevant operational theories and give recommendations on how the company can improve its quality.

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Defining the problem

Thornton is a printing company which engages in printing of labels for other companies’ products and tickets. It also deals in the manufacturing of label application machines for other companies. The company has a problem with its communication structure that would ensure quality in its operations. The business environment of the company has drastically changed. New technology has resulted to influx of new products in the market and many small companies have taken advantage of this to gain reputation in the market. They have been able to produce and deliver labels quickly and cheaply according to the exact customer specifications. Thornton Company has been unable to adapt to the changing environment which has resulted to its poor financial performance. It has poor communication with its market and it does little research and development. Sales personnel have been unable to service the customers properly because of mere lack of knowledge of what the company can offer, as the management structure does not make it easy for the employees to communicate with its customers (Greasley 148).

The poor communication is blamed on the poor quality management style that rocked the company in the recent past. Basically, the company had a flat organizational management structure, causing a lot of problems due to lack of defined roles for each departmental or line manager. In other words, the company has a lot of difficulty emerging from its poor quality of operating performance. The company faces improper coordination of technical performance, which deals with the quality of technical planning, technical capabilities, technical methods, technical procedures, and technical designs. In production function, there were many errors and mistakes resulting to high levels of waste, spoiled work and low quality products. This has lead to excessive overtime being used to correct problems which turned to increased cost.

There was a complete lack of ownership and communication. Workers at lower level of the organization felt they were being blamed for poor quality work that in fact resulted from the poor quality materials which was supplied. They were not satisfied with the way decisions about certain issues (e.g. purchase of new materials) were being made. Workers refused to collaborate with their supervisors and industrial relations problems between management and unions were very frequent. This resulted to the employees feeling unmotivated and thus could not establish good relationship with the company’s clients.

Quality assurances problems were rampant. This required urgent attention from management of the organization. The company did not invest in improvement strategies and thus was unable to adopt the new technology which resulted to the company facing high competition from smaller firms. The production process was also poor which resulted to production of poor quality materials due to the errors and mistakes that were made, but not understood by the company rank and file. There was critical need for a cross-functional team to investigate and solve these problems with much urgency.

Quality management

The company requires adopting a good management structure that would facilitate good quality control process. By doing this, they would be in a position to provide quality products or services to the customers. With high quality and low price, competitive advantage and the market share of a company will increase. The employees will also get job security which will motivate them to work hard and attain excellence. Good quality control system will ensure that everybody in the organization is ensuring quality production and also offering value to the customers. This will thus result into customer satisfaction and good customer relationship. In order for a company to get the benefits of quality control it has to consider some concepts.

The company should consider its external and internal customers (Greasley 148). The printing company did not care about the needs and specifications of the customers and thus these customers were not satisfied. The company did not care about its internal customers who were the staff. There was no training program for the workers which made them feel unmotivated and could not establish good relationship with the customers. A major factor in quality management is meeting the customers’ requirements. But to meet the customer requirement, one must be ready to effectively communicate issues and ideas that are needed for effective business relationship. The company should understand the people to whom the customers goods are being sold and also the internal staff. If each customer specifies and demands appropriate requirements, suppliers should focus their effort to building quality in production process at each stage. There should be a real need for an organization to understand the product or service that the customer want, agree on the requirement and fulfill them.

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The second factor that the company should consider in ensuring quality management is continuous improvement in its communication strategy. Thornton printing company failed to adopt the new technology and thus could not produce quality products like other companies which were using the new technology. For a company to attain its goals, it should strive for never ending improvement. A company can achieve a competitive edge by steadily widening improvement over slow changing competitors. Total quality will involve changing the organizations management style. Measures of performance and management horizons will have to be adjusted to recognize the need for sustained improvement.

The company should also consider controlling the business process in order to attain total quality provision. Business process was not controlled in Thornton Printing Company and this resulted to poor quality production. Suppliers brought low quality materials and the workers made many mistakes and errors in production (Greasley 148). This resulted to production of low quality materials which were far below the customers expectations The quality of any businesses products and services is determined by the basic business or manufacturing process that create them. If the chain of processes is made efficient and effective, then the resulting products and services will be efficient and effective. Efforts must be therefore directed to controlling the processes rather than concentrating on just the direct control of specific control of the products or services. It is good to identify the people who influence and control the process on daily basis and who qualified to advice and comment. The effective use of their knowledge and abilities is essential to effective process control and it is a corner stoner to total quality.

Preventive management is also important in achieving total quality in an organization. The management style in Thornton Company was very poor because the employees and the management were not collaborating in the operations of the business which resulted to its poor performance. For an organization to be successful, improvement should be about seeking out potential problems and not about waiting for a failure in order to identify an area of improvement. Preventive management shifts the emphasis from past event inspection to pre event planning and prevention activities. This will help the company to anticipate potential problems and thus come up with ways of preventing its occurrence.

Ongoing preventive action is also a concept that should be considered in achieving total quality. The company did not have any strategy of surviving in the competitive market. Threats from other companies saw the company experiencing difficulties in finances. Successful organizations constantly attack the real root cause of a problem or potential problem that hinders staff in doing their jobs. The management and staff should be in a position of deciding and implementing the appropriate corrective and preventive action. The action should remove or minimize the roots causes of the problem and prevent their recurrence (Greasley 148).

Total quality also requires the highest standards of leadership and team work. In Thornton printing company, leadership style was very poor and the employees were blamed by the management for poor quality production. Employees did not participate in decision making or problem solving process of the company. This concept of high standard leadership depends on participation and team work throughout the organization in all activities. Visible and genuine commitment from the chief executive is essential if the organization is to embark on a journey to excellence through total quality. Commitment by the management team is the only way to implement and maintain the culture necessary for total quality. Motivation and commitment is achieved through involvement of all the staff in the decision making and problem solving activities of a business. Recognizing individuals contribution and improving the organizations approach to team work will improve the return to the people cost and total quality terms. The benefits of quality management can be fully realized by maximizing the use of all staff at all levels to the limit of their abilities.

Understanding quality management

Understanding quality management

Operations theory

Operation management is a systematic approach used to address all issues concerning the transformation process that converts some inputs to out puts that are useful and that will fetch some revenue for the company. The goal of operation in a business is to create value so that the out puts are worth more to customers than just the sum of out put. Operation management involves several theories which include:

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Theory of swift and even flow

This theory holds that the swifter and even the flow of materials through the process the more productive the process is (Hakes 108). Operation management ensures that quality raw materials are delivered to the company on time. This helps in preventing interruptions in manufacturing process thus ensuring the company’s ability to meet the high demand of the final product to the customers. The company should ensure that quality raw materials are delivered to the company in order to ensure that the final product manufactured is of high quality.

Theory of material processing

This theory states that when processing, material productivity is enhanced by applying principles designed to eliminate waste of all kinds. The company should avoid making mistakes and errors in the production process. Unnecessary stock and defects should be avoided in order to ensure quality production. This stage involves adding value to the raw materials by processing and thus the company should ensure high level of processing. This is because productivity increases as quality improves since waste is eliminated.

Theory of process improvement and superiority

This theory states that continues improvements of the company’s operations should be done in order to ensure high productivity and competitive advantage in the market. A company should adopt a good management style which will help the management and the workers to work together towards achievement of the company’s goals. Stevenson recommends that “employees should be involved in company’s decision making and problem solving processes” (Stevenson 766). All functional departments in a company like the purchasing department, accounting, production and marketing should work together in order to ensure successful production.

Theory of service experience

Customers are different from materials in that they sense and respond to their environment. The company should ensure that the customers’ expectations are matched with their perceptions. Customer Quality Management (CQM) is a theory in operational management which encompasses a new way of looking at customers, focusing on their potential value to ones business (Stevenson 768). In the need to observe good customer experience, firms should be in a position to recognize that “some customers have more value or potential value than others” (Greasley 148). The level of servicing and attention that customers get must be based on their potential value to the customer (Greasley 148). Implementing Customer Quality Management (CQM) will take the company a wide culture shift from the sales people through first line and senior management to the support division. Sales people and their managers should break away from simplistic call counting and focus their attention on the quality as well as well as the quantity of interactions with customers. They also aim at building relationships with their customers. The company should not let customer quality management control the sales strategy but the business processes should be what to drive sales success.

Total quality management (TQM)

Total quality management is a quality system in which every department of an organization is dedicated to quality control and improvement (Stevenson 768). What makes total quality management different from other management processes is its concentrated focus on continuous improvement. TQM is about changing the things are done within the organization’s life time. Total quality management therefore encompasses four basic principles which include

Delight the customer

This focuses on external customers who the company should delight. This implies a real need to understand the product or service and agree on the customer requirement and fulfill them. The company should ensure that the customers’ needs are satisfied by meeting their expectations. Quality should be ensured in production process because customers will always look for quality products.

Management by fact

This is also another total quality management principle which involves “the company knowing the current quality standards of the product or service in the customers’ hands” (Stevenson 767). This acts as the first step of the company improvement process. Having the management facts necessary to manage the business at all levels and giving that information to everyone is an essential aspect of continuous improvement. The company measuring wherever it is, will help it come up with new improvement strategies.

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People based management

The company should involve every person in improvement process. According to Stevenson, “if people understand what to do, how to do it and obtain feedback on their performance, then they can be encouraged to take responsibility for the quality of their own work” (Stevenson 768). Involving employees in company’s activities will make them feel motivated and will thus satisfy the customers’ needs (Stevenson 768). Teamwork provides a real opportunity for people to work together to achieve quality improvement. It also enables a group of people to work as a task force, looking at cross functional problems in order to identify and adopt new ways of doing things.

Continuous improvement

Total quality management is a management process that recognizes that the competitors are improving just like ones company is. Continuous improvement is an incremental change which should be the aim of all those companies which wish to undertake the total quality management path (Stevenson 768). One of the improvements that should be done is in customer satisfaction. A company should use the customers learning what is important to them and then measure its performance against the customer expectations. The company should also let the customers set their satisfaction goals in order for the company to clearly understand their expectations.

Total quality management can be implemented in a company by putting in practice suitable TQM methods. These methods include contingency planning which prevents waste of resources by planning for contingencies in the completion of a project. The other TQM method is customer contingency table which helps the company to understand the needs of both internal and external customer’s satisfaction. Just in time (JIT) is also a method in TQM which ensures that delivery of material or components to the production line will arrive just in time when they are needed.

Changes to improve quality

The ultimate focus and objective of every one in the organization must be to satisfy the customer. This applies to internal as well as external customers. Teamwork, innovation, accomplishment and integrity form the basis for relationships within the organizations. The aim of management must be to perform and improve their job (Greasley 148). Leaders should focus on improving the business process, inform their management of potential problems and act to correct problems. Leadership should be committed to total quality management and be the driving force behind it. It must create a vision that will make the organization from its current position to where it wants to be. The management must also establish and communicate clear corporate values, principles and objectives.

In order for a company to focus on customer satisfaction and delight them, their expectations must be met. Emphasis should be placed on improving the practice of frontline personnel, delivery mechanisms and logistics, customer focus and processing of customer requests. A company should incorporate quality and customer service in to performance appraisal and reward system. Total quality management requires a high skilled, knowledgeable workforce, well trained in its tools and methods.

Recommendation

Meeting customers needs

Thornton printing company should try to meet the customers’ expectations by producing high quality products (Hakes 108). Total quality management advocates that managers and employees should become customer focused and find ways to meet and exceed customers’ expectations. The company therefore should purchase high quality materials in order to produce quality final products. Mistakes and errors should be avoided in order to ensure high quality production.

Employee involvement

Thornton Company should ensure full employee participation in the integral part of the process. Each employee should be a partner in achieving quality goals. Teamwork involves managers, supervisors, and employees in improving services delivery, solving systematic problems and solving errors in all parts of work process.

Commitment to training

In Thornton Company no employee training was done which resulted to low morale and failure of building customer relationship. Training is absolutely important to the success of total quality management. The company should adopt a training program where all the employees will be taught. This will result to employees feeling motivated and will also help them to be efficient in production process. They will avoid mistakes and errors which result to wastage and high production cost. Training will also help the employees to build good relationship with the customers.

Continuous improvement

Quality improvement is a never ending process (Hakes 108). Thornton Company should adopt the new technology in order to help in production of quality labels which will meet the customers’ expectations. This will also help the company to have a competitive edge in the market and increase its finances. Creativity and innovation should be the company’s order of the day in order for the company to achieve total quality management.

Conclusion

A company with good management process succeeds in its operation. Operational management involves all the activities done from receiving of raw materials to manufacturing process till they get to the final customer. This article has featured Thornton printing company which has been experiencing problems in its operations. It has explained the concept of operational management and how it relates to the company’s practices. The article has also given the recommendations necessary to improve the operations of the company.

Works cited

Greasley, Andrew. Operations Management. New York: SAGE, 2007.

Hakes, Chris. Total quality management: the key to business improvement. Chicago: Springer, 1991.

Stevenson, Williams. Operations Management. Chicago: McGraw-Hill Irwin, 2008.

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