Operations Management and Process Technology

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Advances in process technology have radically changed many operations over the last two or three decades. And all indications are that the pace of technological development is not slowing down. Few operations have been unaffected by this because all operations use some kind of process technology, whether it is a simple Internet link or the most complex and sophisticated of automated factories. But whatever the technology, all operations managers need to understand what emerging technologies can do, in broad terms how they do it, what advantages the technology can give and what constraints it might impose on the operation. Operations managers are continually involved in the management of process technology. They do not need to be experts in engineering, computing, biology, electronics or whatever constitutes the core science of the technology, but they should be able to do three things. First, they need to understand the technology to the extent that they are able to articulate what the technology should be able to do. Second, they should be able to evaluate alternative technologies and share in the decisions of which technology to choose. Third, they must implement the technology so that it can reach its full potential in contributing to the performance of the operation as a whole. Understanding process technology does not mean knowing the details of the science and engineering embedded in the technology.

• Materials-processing technology: Technological advances have meant that the ways in which metals, plastics, fabric and other materials are processed have improved over time. Generally it is the initial forming and shaping of materials at the start, and the handling and movement through the manufacturing process that has been most affected by technology advances. Assembling parts to make products, although far more automated that once it was, presents more challenges. Here are just some of the technologies that have helped to transform material processing

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