Evolution of Production and Operations Management

Essay by chandimaonline March 2010

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"Operations management (OM) is defined as the design, operation, and improvement of the systems that create and deliver the firm's primary products and services. Like marketing and finance, OM is a functional field of business with clear line management responsibilities."

(Chase, Jacobs, Aquilano, 2006:9)

"Operations management is the management of processes or systems that create goods and/or provide services. It encompasses forecasting, capacity planning, scheduling, managing inventories, assuring quality, motivating employees, deciding where to locate facilities, buying material and equipment and maintaining them, and more."

(Stevenson, 2002:4)

At the most fundamental level, operations management is about getting the day-to-day work done quickly, efficiently, without errors, and at low cost.

Figure 1 - Operations process


The Industrial Revolution began in the 1770s in England and spread to the rest of Europe and to North America during the nineteenth century. A number of innovations changed the face of production forever by substituting machine power for human power.

Perhaps the most significant of these was the steam engine, made practical by James Watt around 1764, because it provided a source of power to operate machines in factories. The Spinning jenny (1770) and power loom (1785) revolutionized the textile industry. Supplies of coal and iron ore provided material for generating power and making machinery. The new machines, made of iron, were much stronger and more durable than the simple wooden machines they replaced. Two concepts assisted in mass production: division of labour and interchangeable parts.

Division of labour, which Adam Smith wrote about in The Wealth of Nations (1776), means that an operation is divided up into a series of many small tasks and individual workers are assigned to one of those tasks. Unlike craft production, where each worker was responsible for doing many tasks and...