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Information Technology Changes

Information systems and services have had a significant change in their "products" and delivery method. Some key ones:

• database technology—information available where it is needed
• expert systems—shared knowledge
• portable computing—send and receive information anywhere
• automatic identification—effortless tracking
• affordable computing—real time processing
• telecommunications—flexible organization structures
• alternative architecture—rightsizing of applications
• remote conferencing—unlimited teaming
• document management—graphics and text combined
• electronic mail—extended enterprise
• multimedia—computer based training
• image management—scanning input/on-line archiving/ PC FAXing

The evolution that is taking place offers an exciting oppor­tunity for change. It began with the simple requirement for data collection and information processing, migrated to systems integration, data communication, network man­agement, and systems interoperability, and is now ad­dressing the high impact area of global information access. Finally, we have reached a point where the solutions which were considered unacceptable in the past now can be reexamined with the introduction of new and more cost effective technologies. Such things as "disposable" code, used as a cheap, short-term solution for unique require­ments, the availability of a competitive market for hard­ware/software solutions, multiple computer platforms for synergistic solutions, etc. What does this mean for the future of P&IM?

The Future of P&IM

If we were to apply rigorous scrutiny to the production and inventory management function from our customers'eyes, we could reach the conclusion that in its current state, it's a non-value-added activity. Further, from a process analy­sis we could conclude it's not an important process. If we are going to focus our concerns on what adds value to the customer or what the customer feels is an important process, then we have to consider reengineering P&IM. Historically, the primary function of that area has been to "balance priorities" given limited and conflicting choices. Doesn't it make sense to realign them as part of a larger, more important process that can focus on an achievable, stretch goal, rather than deal in on-going compromise? The role they execute is important, but how they execute it is begging for change. Before you begin your "what-if" sce­nario, remember the information needed to perform any task, in any structure, at any location is available. Your role is to utilize it.

Lessons Learned

Listed below are some lessons learned after engaging in some of the solutions discussed in this article:

• Do not identify a solution and apply technology prior to a real understanding of the requirement
• Be sure to define a real process rather than important tasks and identify a process owner that champions the change
• Recognize that change is traumatic on all individuals and they should be educated in dealing with change
• Downsizing or flattening an organization is not what reengineering is about
• Remember that progressive organizations have gone beyond the concept of "management information sys­tems (MIS)" and are using the expanded toolset of "information technology"
• Do not be restricted to conventional thinking of orga­nizations or processes
• Do not consider existing restrictions of information systems

For balance of this article, click on the below link:
Lean Manufacturing Articles and go to Series 02


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