Issues and Discussion Questions
1.What kinds of products and technologies does Benson Metals use? How have these been changing recently? Benson Metals, a medium-sized maker of specialty steel products, has traditionally used a craftsliketechnology to produce a variety of metals. In terms of Perrow’s model of technology, task variety andtask analyzability are low, as there is still guesswork, skill, and even some “black magic” inmanufacturing products. Benson also produces metals in very small quantities—pounds not tons—so thatin terms of Woodward’s model it is small batch, and the skills and knowledge of production people aremore important than machines in getting the job done—task complexity is low.Recently, the company has moved into making sophisticated and technically difficult steels for theaerospace industry. Not only are they difficult to produce, these steels require more research skills,metallurgical analysis, and delicate handling in all stages of production. They are produced to verystringent specifications. In terms of Perrow’s model, task variety has increased and task analyzability hasfallen—production is more nonroutine and research oriented and depends more on the skills, experience,knowledge, and judgment of production personnel. Companies cannot imitate these skills, so they form acompetitive advantage. The environment surrounding the company has changed to more uncertainty because a new range of products is manufactured. Both technology and environment have changed,affecting the contingencies facing the company, and increasing potential risks and returns. 2.What problems is Benson Metals encountering as it changes products and technologies? An increased level of conflict between sales and production poses a problem. Production is responding tothe new pressures facing the organization, yet it is continually fighting with sales. Sales wants a rapidresponse to unexpected customer requests or tries to discover production’s plans or when the...
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