Toshiba’s Assembly Line
In business, one of the basic principals is to reduce costs as much as possible, in an effort to maximize profits. For manufacturing companies, this can be particularly challenging, as the costs associated with producing various goods can be become very volatile. To address this issue many companies have implemented the concept of the assembly line, by mirroring key parts that have worked well for different organizations in the past. A good example of this can be seen by looking no further than, Henry Ford using interchangeable parts and the concept of mass producing automobiles as cheaply as possible. (McClellan, 2006, pg. 339) This is important, because it underscores how ideas from the past are often implemented with contemporary ones, to help a company increase their profits dramatically. One place where this can be seen is with the strategy that Toshiba is using for producing different notebooks. As engineers would take some of most basic concepts and augment them creativity, to cost effectively produce their different these products. To fully understand the strategy that is being implemented requires: examining the daily capacity of the assembly line, the maximum capacity / efficiency, how redesigning the line could achieve the target objectives of 300 units per day / the efficiency of the new design and other issues that Toshiba needs to consider. Together, these different elements will provide the greatest insights, as to how Toshiba is taking these ideas and is enhancing them to increase their productivity while (reducing their costs).
What is the daily capacity of the assembly line designed by the engineers?
The total daily production capacity of the engineers was 300 units per day. However, it is important to remember that they were planning on phasing in the new production strategy. As the company would start at 150 units per day, then begin increasing to 250 units per day, followed by 300 units. (“Designing Toshiba’s Notebook Computer Assembly Line, ” n.d.) the idea was that incrementally increasing production would help everyone, to become familiar with the new changes and allow managers to work out any issues. This increased the overall balance that the Toshiba would have in their assembly line. As the process, would provide more personnel to address possible issues, helping them to maximize production. (Kusaik, 2000, pp. 454 — 457)
When it is running at maximum capacity, what is the efficiency of the line?
Toshiba is running at maximum capacity when several different conditions exist to include: running the assembly line 24 hours a day / seven days a week and maintaining the proper staff / support levels at all times. These two elements are important, because they are allowing the company to receive the maximum amount of production from the line. Once this takes place, is when it is running at maximum capacity. (“Business Glossary,” 2010)
The efficiency of the line is when you are maximizing the total amount of production, while maintaining a low cost structure. When the strategy is being implemented properly, it can help the company to save time and money producing various notebooks. (“Efficiency,” 2010)
How should the line be redesigned to operate at the target 300 units per day, assuming that no overtime will be used? What is the efficiency of your new design?
The best way that the line could be redesigned is through the use of flexible manufacturing systems. This is when you are using a process, of ensuring that every placed on the line, is having the parts and necessary support they require. During the current manufacturing process that Toshiba is using, they are embracing the idea of added productivity through staff line support. This is where the company will have two employees monitoring various members of the production team. This is usually a total of ten people. If one of them begins to feel tired or they start to slowdown, the individual is relieved of their position on the line. It is at this point, that someone else can step in and maintain high levels of productivity. (“Designing Toshiba’s Notebook Computer Assembly Line, ” n.d.) This is important, because it shows how Toshiba is taking a step in the right direction. Yet, when you look at the issue of parts and suppliers, it is clear that they could face the possibility of seeing potential disruptions for key components or sharp price increases. Once this takes place, it could mean that Toshiba may have a parts shortage (which is having an adverse effect on productivity). To address this issue, the line should be redesigned to ensure each station has its own extra supply of parts. This will help to prevent possible supply disruptions and can maintain the 300 units per day target. Where, the strategy will allow the line, to continuously function, without having any kind of slowdowns or disruptions. Once this takes place, it will increase productivity and maintain the current labor cost structure.
The efficiency of this new design is that it will eliminate the wasted amounts of time during the work week, by ensuring that there is no reason for the line to slowdown. The constant monitoring for employee exhaustion / productivity addresses the human factors of the production line. While the parts shortage will ensure that the there will never be any kind of slowdowns. (“Designing Toshiba’s Notebook Computer Assembly Line, ” n.d.) Once this occurs, it will increase efficiency by allowing the company to streamline their operations.
What other issues might Toshiba consider when bringing the new assembly line up to speed?
Two additional issues that Toshiba would have to wrestle with as far as the new assembly line is concerned are: possible changes in demand and challenges facing outside suppliers. Changing demand is problematic, because if the company is not carefully monitoring their supply chain, they could easily over ship a number of different units. Once this occurs, it could force Toshiba to scale down production. Given the fact that the production line is fairly new, means that there is a possibility that managers could realize changes in demand (once it is to late). This is because, there was no past benchmarks to help determine when this was taking place, which contributed to the situation.
The various challenges facing outside suppliers are troubling, because they could have an impact upon the new production line. The reason why, is the various costs for raw materials and other components could be increasing. A recent example of this occurred when raw material costs for: praseodymium, cerium, lanthanum, neodymium, samarium and gadolinium increased. These different elements are essential in the production of electronic devices ranging from: cell phones to computers. This is the consequence of strong demand and not enough supplies on the market. As a result, this is having an adverse effect on the company’s product line. As it is making it more challenging to find the parts they need to maintain production levels. (“China Japan Dispute Shine Light on Rare Earth Materials,” 2010)
Clearly, Toshiba is taking the ideas of the past and is augmenting them with their own strategies to improve the production of various laptop computers. As they are using an approach of monitoring how each employee is performing on the line. This is accomplished through having added personnel that can relive the individual, once they become tired. At the same time, they are having each team member monitor for various quality and control procedures. This is important, because it is underscoring how the new strategy can be able to address the issues of reducing costs and maximizing productivity. However, the three biggest issues that will be faced with the implementation of the new production line are: maintaining the maximum production rate of 300 units per day consistently, changes in demand and challenges facing outside suppliers. These issues are important, because they can undermine the productivity of the new system that is being introduced. As a result, management needs to engage in a strategy that will give executives flexibility. Over the course of time, this will help the company be able to adapt to these possible challenges, allowing them to realize their productivity and cost objectives.
Business Glossary. (2010). All Business. Retrieved from: http://www.allbusiness.com/glossaries/maximum-capacity/4944497-1.html
China Japan Dispute Shine Light on Rare Earth Materials. (2010). VOA News. Retrieved from: http://www.voanews.com/learningenglish/home/China-Japan-Dispute-Shines-Light-on-Rare-Earth-Metals — 104541629.html
Designing Toshiba’s Notebook Computer Assembly Line. (n.d.). (pp. 212 — 214)
Efficiency. (2010). Dictionary.com. Retrieved from: http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/efficiency
McClellan, J. (2006). Tool Makers Take Command. Science and Technology in World History. (pg. 339). Baltimore, MD: John Hopkins’s University Press.
Kusaik, a. (2000). Designing and Scheduling an Assembly Line. Conceptual Intelligence in Design and Manufacturing. (pp. 454 — 457). New York, NY: Wiley.
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