Long-Term Productivity in Business Workers and Machinery
Productivity is important to every kind of business. This does not mean that every possible bit of work has to be squeezed out of every single worker until they drop into an exhausted heap on the assembly line. Indeed, this would certainly not be productive because having to replace on a continual basis workers who quit from being exhausted - not to mention having to settle disability suits - is hardly the goal of any business.
Productivity means getting the most out of one's machines and workers on a long-term basis. Sometimes this means that everyone has to put in overtime. Sometimes this means that people need to spend an afternoon staring out the window and thinking up new ideas. It all depends upon the business involved and the stage of a project that business and that worker is at.
Something that every business can benefit from in terms of increased productivity is an adaptation of the ISO 9000 standards. However, these standards are most effective if they are in fact adopted as part of an overall operations management strategy. Both points will be discussed below.
Most people outside of the world of industry have never heard of ISO 9000 Certification, and yet this system - and similar systems of standardization - are integral to a number of the activities that we pursue each day and are central to the way that business and industry will be conducted in the 21st century.
Much has been written about the process whereby a business (whether in the high-tech field or in one of the more traditional heavy industries) can create a system of quality management. While each type of industry and business must determine the details of quality management for itself and each individual business must fine tune those requirements for its own particular needs, it is possible to make some general statements about the process of quality control - which are all tied in more or less direct ways to a systematic application by the company's executives of the concept of standardization.
The business leader who wishes to run his or her business at anything approaching maximum efficiency must establish, document, implement, and maintain a quality management system and thereafter continually improve its effectiveness by:
Mapping, controlling and analyzing processes,
- providing the necessary resources,
- implementing and continually improving processes.
One of the axioms of quality control for the production management of a company or business has traditionally been summarized as taking care of the "five M's": men, machines, methods, materials, and money. The first of these is now obviously no longer properly an "M" since it must include women (of course, women have always done at least have of the labor in human societies), but the uniformity of the acronym remains appealing. Since the vast majority of manufacturing personnel work in the physical production of goods, "people management" is one of the production manager's most important responsibilities and takes precedence over the other four in terms of the quality management.
Although the five M's cover the range of the major tasks of production management, control summarizes its single most important issue. The production manager interested in quality management is in fact interested in quality control. That person must therefore plan and control the process of production so that it moves smoothly at the required level of output while meeting cost and quality objectives.
An essential part of this planning process in almost every case is the implementation of a standardization process like the ISO 9000. This cannot be overemphasized.
Quality process control has two major purposes, and these are the same regardless of the kind of industry or business that is involved. The first of these is to ensure that operations are performed according to plan, and second, a continuous monitoring and evaluation of the production plan to see if modifications can be devised to better meet "cost, quality, delivery, flexibility, or other objectives."
This process of continually updating and checking for needed modifications is one of the greatest strengths of the ISO system. Moreover, it is the "continuousness" of this process that is most responsible for the connection between productivity and ISO 9000 use.
While the ISO standardization system is updated annually, often good quality control must be updated on a daily or even an hourly basis. For example, when demand for a product is high enough to justify continuous production, the production level might need to be adjusted from time to address fluctuating demand or changes in a company's market share.
This is called the "production-smoothing" problem. When more than one product is involved, complex industrial engineering or operations research procedures are often necessary because without them it may well not be possible to analyze in as sophisticated a way as is possible the many factors that are contributing to a single - perhaps seemingly simple - problem.
ISO 9000 Quality Systems quality system is "a set of documented procedures for carrying out a business process.... A quality system, in other words, helps create order, rigor, and routines from chaotic or spontaneously evolved processes.." Often companies or businesses do not implement quality control systems and systems of standardization because the amount of work (and paperwork) involved in such implementation can in fact be quite heavy. This sets up a psychological barrier at the beginning of the project that people often find it hard to overcome - not understanding how greatly their productivity will be improved.
Quite often people do not want to plow through the initial work that is required in setting up such a system. However, this must be filed under the "pennywise and pound foolish" category, for the time invested in implementing quality control and standardization processes is well worth it because "the introduction of quality systems frequently leads to improvements in quality and predictability of operations." The ISO 9000 is a particularly useful set of standards because it makes very explicit the issues that must be included in various kinds of systems.
The ISO 9000 specifications are promulgated, as one might suspect, by the ISO, the International Organization for Standardization. Founded in Geneva in 1947, the ISO is concerned with providing for an ease of standardization in all areas of work and technology in all technical and non-technical fields except for those of electrical and electronic engineering (which fall under the purview of the International Electrotechnical Commission). Its membership extends to more than 100 countries, and each member is the national body "most representative of standardization in its country."
In Western industrial countries such as the United States or the countries of Western Europe, these national bodies are usually private organizations, such as the American National Standards Institute (usually known by its acronym of ANSI) or the British Standards Institution (BSI). In other parts of the world - including Asia and part of Africa - these organizations are generally a formal branch of the government.
Standardization affects a very wide range of processes and sub-processes. These include setting units of measurement; establishing systems to alphabetization and transliteration of different alphabets; setting specifications for parts and their component as well as for the quality of materials, work surfaces, work processes, required and optional tools, all methods of testing, and machines. Even the exact form in which specifications are presented is standardized.
The ISO is often called in by the representatives of either an industry or a government or a national standards institution to establish bodies called "technical committees" that draw on an international group of experts to investigate and resolve specific concerns about standardization in that field. These resolutions are then published under the title "International Standards" (IS). Because of the pace of technological change as well as changes in ideas about labor, ISO standards are reviewed (and, if necessary, revised) every five years.
While the ISO is a relatively new organization, the concept of standardization in industry is itself centuries old. The development and application of standards to allow for large production runs of component parts that can be readily fitted to other parts without adjustment - which is in a nutshell all that standardization is - has been with us since the beginnings of the Industrial Revolution. Such standardization allows (at least when it is well executed) for clear communication between an industry and all of its suppliers, for relatively low cost both to industry and to the final consumer, and for the planning of manufacture on the basis of interchangeable parts.
What is a Standard?
A standard is simply that which has been selected as a model to which objects or actions may be compared. Standards for industry may be devices and instruments used to regulate color, size, weight, and other product attributes. Standards may also exist in the form of actual they may be physical models. Standards may also be written mathematical or symbolical descriptions, drawings, or formulas setting forth the important features of objects to be produced or actions to be…