Yard Company is a family- owned medium- sized manufacturing company that has been in operation for more
Moldings are made to order and sold through contract with the purchasing party. The uniqueness of its product had allowed the company to avoid automating its production processes until just last year. Realizing that labor costs were going to escalate steadily for the foreseeable future, management purchased three numerically controlled machines to automate some of its production processes. A numerically controlled machine is a computer-operated workstation that is programmed to operate tools and to perform a sequence of manufacturing operations in conjunction with one or more human operators. For example, the machine might be programmed to drill several holes of specific sizes in a certain sequence. The human operator manipulates the part, pressing a button to let the machine know when to drill a hole.
Programming the numerically controlled machines requires skills that are obtained most readily by studying computer science in college or a trade school. Because none of the artisans employed by the Yard Company had the necessary background, it was necessary to hire two recent college graduates to program the machines. The two programmers were much younger than most of the artisans and had very different backgrounds and career objectives. It was very difficult for the two groups to communicate.
Relations between the artisans and the programmers deteriorated quickly because the numerically controlled machines operated very inefficiently, mostly due to programming errors. For example, a drill bit would withdraw several feet into the air so that an artisan could rotate a part, when it was only necessary for the drill bit to withdraw several inches. In addition to the time delay, errors of this type lessened the artisans’ confidence in the programmers’ work. This situation has existed for more than a year. One of the original programmers quit the company, and another was hired to take his place. Rumor has it that both programmers are currently seeking other positions.
The management of Yard Company is aware that there is a problem but does not know how it should proceed. The numerically controlled machines were a sizable investment for the company and were expected to make production more efficient. Management expected some start- up problems, but the problems that have been encountered have been much more severe than expected. Total production costs have increased rather than decreased, and management is aware that both the programmers and the artisans are blaming each other for the company’s problems.
a. What factors have contributed to the problem Yard Company is experiencing in implementing numerically controlled machines in its production operations?
b. Suggest a solution to Yard Company’s problem.
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