Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Perfspot.com

I have discovered a social networking site today. The site is www.perfspot.com. Apparently it is the fastest growing social networking site right now. I am not entirely convinced that this can overtake facebook and become the number one just yet with its current look and networking facilities.

It offers most of the usual features of social networking, including newsfeeds, customisable profile options and the option of linking photos to other users' profiles plus unlimited space to upload images and videos. It also provides an URL for the user which is also common features in hi5, myspace and the likes.

It does, however, have some extra features which are not available in facebook. For example, it lets the user create his/her own network which wasn’t available in the facebook. This gives the users outside the developed world to include their education and work networks in the site.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

মন্টু মিয়ার দুঃস্বপ্ন

Friday, December 21, 2007

Shakira visits Bangladesh

Shakira visits Bangladesh to meet the victims of cyclone Sidr.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

ঈদ মুবারাক এবং একটি চুটকি

আজ পবিত্র ঈদ উল আজহা। বিলেতের সবাইকে ঈদের শুভেচ্ছা জানাই।
বোনাস হিসেবে একটি কৌতুক। কৌতুকটি আজ মেহের এর কাছ থেকে শুনলাম।

যখন 'নাসা' প্রথম মহাশুন্যে নভোচারী পাঠানো শুরু করলো, তখন তারা আবিষ্কার করলো যে শুন্য 'ভর' এ (Zero gravity) বলপেন কাজ করছে না। এই সমস্যা মোকাবিলা করার জন্য নাসার বিজ্ঞানীরা ১০ বছর এবং $১২ বিলিয়ন ব্যয় করে একটি কলম আবিষ্কার করলো যা শুন্য ভর, পানির নিচে, উল্টা করে এবং ৩০০ ডিগ্রী সেলসিয়াস পর্যন্ত তাপমাত্রায় লেখা যায়।
কিন্তু রাশিয়ান বিজ্ঞানীরা শুধু পেন্সিল ব্যবহার করেই কাজ চালিয়ে যায়।

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Niazi's book mocks Jamaat's claim

An account of events chronicled by the commander of Pakistani occupying forces in 1971 renders rather untrue Jamaat-e-Islami Bangladesh's vehement claim that they were not involved in anti-liberation activities, by categorically saying that the Army of Razakars was formed by the erstwhile Pakistan government itself to fight against the liberation forces of Bangladesh.

Lt Gen Amir Abdullah Khan Niazi, who led the Pakistani occupation forces as the chief of the eastern command of Pakistan Army in 1971, in his book titled 'The Betrayal of East Pakistan' described the formation of the Army of Razakars, their training, procurement of weapons and other logistics, and the deployment of the paramilitary vigilante force.

To train the Razakars, military schools were set up, a separate Razakars Directorate was established, they were provided with machine guns, sten guns, and with intelligence against the Bangalee freedom fighters, and against their supporters and sympathisers.

According to Niazi's book, Jamaat-e-Islami, Nizam-i-Islam Party, and several factions of Muslim League were known as rightist political parties at the time, and the Army of Razakars was formed with men recruited from those parties.

But, Jamaat-e-Islami men were dominating the Razakars annoying other parties. Major Saddik Salik, who was the public relations officer of the then eastern command of Pakistan Army and worked closely with Niazi in 1971, in his own book titled 'Witness to Surrender', said in September 1971 a political delegation from erstwhile West Pakistan complained to General Niazi that he had raised an army comprising men nominated by Jamaat-e-Islami.

"The general [Niazi] called me to his office and said: From now on, you will call the Razakars -- Al-Badr and Al Shams -- to give the impression that they do not belong to one single party," Salik wrote.

Interestingly enough, Niazi dedicated his book to the Razakars and the Mujahids of East Pakistan along with the members of the armed forces, civil armed forces, civilian officers, and the West Pakistan police saying they 'strove hard, made supreme sacrifices and suffered humiliation to keep Pakistan united'.

Major Salik said in his book, the only people who came forward to form the Army of Razakars were the rightists like Khwaza Khairuddin of Council Muslim League, Fazlul Qader Chaudhry of Convention Muslim League, Khan Sobur A Khan of Muslim League Qayyum, Prof Golam Azam of Jamaat-e-Islami, and Maulvi Farid Ahmed of Nizam-i-Islam Party.


Jamaat-e-Islami leaders Golam Azam, Abbas Ali Khan, Motiur Rahman Nizami, and Ali Ahsan Mohammad Mojaheed launched a countrywide campaign urging the youth to join the Razakars, Al-Badrs, and the Al-Shams to resist the liberation forces of Bangladesh. The then home ministry also sent reports to West Pakistan about their activities in favour of the Pakistan occupation forces.

Forming the Razakars
About the formation of the Army of Razakars, Niazi in his book said, "The proposal for raising an organised Razakar Force remained under consideration with HQ, CMLA and GHQ for a long time. Although their recruitment had started earlier, sanction for the raising of this force was given at the end of August 1971."

"A separate Razakars Directorate was established, and the whole set up started taking proper shape. Two separate wings called Al-Badr and AL-Shams were organised. Well educated and properly motivated students from the schools and madrasas were put in Al-Badr wing, where they were trained to undertake 'Specialised Operations', while the remainder were grouped together under Al-Shams, which was responsible for the protection of bridges, vital points and other areas," Niazi went on.

About the deployment of the Razakars, Niazi who was also appointed as the martial law administrator in the then East Pakistan in September 1971, said the Razakars were mostly employed in areas where the Pakistan occupation army was around to control and utilise them. Being an army of rookies not fully trained, the Razakars were prone to subversion through local influences, he added.

"---- this force [Razakar] was useful where available, particularly in the areas where the rightist parties were in strength and had sufficient local influence," Niazi said in the book.

"Seventy percent of the target ceiling, of 50,000 Razakars spread over all the districts of the province, was achieved. Battle schools were established to train Razakar platoon and company commanders. To provide an effective command structure to this organisation, about sixty young officers were selected to be appointed as Razakar Group Commanders," Niazi said.

Obtaining weapons for the Razakars
Niazi said all engaged in operations having Razakar elements among them, felt that in order to make the Razakars really effective in the field, they must be equipped with automatic weapons. That was important, as the rebels were carrying automatic weapons, which were far superior to those issued to the Razakars, said Niazi, who surrendered to the allied forces of Mukti Bahini and the Indian military on December 16, 1971 in Dhaka.

"To cater for only one light machine gun and one sten gun per Razakar platoon, we required a minimum number of 2,500 light machine guns and an equal number of sten guns. Unfortunately, we could only provide them with 275 light machine guns and 390 sten guns. This reflects the poor state of weapons with the Razakars. It adversely affected their morale and their overall performance in the field against the well equipped Mukti Bahini. The Razakars felt that they were not being trusted with superior arms. This state of affairs was further aggravated as the Razakars were already exposed to the local negative influence and to Indian propaganda. In order to keep them under control and utilize them properly, they were mixed with West Pakistani police and non-Bengali elements," Niazi said in his book.

Mujahids
Niazi in his book also said some Mujahid battalions and independent Mujahid companies were employed in operational duties along with the regular forces. Their battalion commanders started arriving in East Pakistan in November 1971. This force was also short of weapons and equipment. A case was taken up with the Military Operation and Infantry Directorate at GHQ, but they also had their own limitations. Most of the men of that force were local with quite a few deserting the camps.

World press on the Razakars
New York Times, on July 30, 1971, ran a report on the formation of the Army of Razakars where the following was printed: "The Razakars.....should be specially helpful as members of rural communities, who can identify guerrillas [freedom fighters], an army officer said...The government says it has already recruited more than 22,000 Razakars of a planned force of 35,000."

The Wall Street Journal on July 27, 1971 reported on Razakars, which said, "To help control the Bengali population, the Pakistan Army has been setting up a network of Peace Committees superimposed upon the normal civil administration, which the army cannot fully rely upon."

"Peace Committee members are drawn from.....Biharis and from the Muslim Leagues and Jamat-e-Islami. The peace committees serve as the agent of army, informing on civil administration as well as on general populace. They are also in charge of confiscating and redistribution of shops and lands from Hindus and pro-independence Bengalis. The Peace Committee also recruits Razakars...many of them are common criminals who have thrown their lots with the army," The Wall Street Journal added.

Jamaat leaders in 1971
While visiting an Al-Badr camp on September 22, 1971 Motiur Rahman Nizami, the present chief of Jamaat-e-Islami Bangladesh said, "Only the patriotic youths of East Pakistan can effectively annihilate the Indian infiltrators and their local agents."

Addressing a gathering of Razakars in Jessore, Nizami said, "Every single one of us must identify ourselves as soldiers of Islam and we have to use all our forces to destroy the people who are involved in an armed conspiracy against Pakistan and Islam," Sangram, the official voice of Jamaat, reported on September 15, 1971.

Current Secretary General of Jamaat-e-Islaimi Bangladesh Ali Ahsan Mohammad Mojaheed, who was the president of the Dhaka unit of East Pakistan Islami Chhatra Shangha (ICS) in 1971, directed his activists to build the Al-Badr Bahini to resist the freedom fighters of Bangladesh back then, according to a 'fortnightly secret report on the situation in East Pakistan', which was a routine report of the political section of the then East Pakistan home ministry to the head of the erstwhile Pakistan government, General Yahya Khan.

Mojaheed at a meeting of ICS in Rangpur on October 17, 1971 directed his vigilantes to build the Al-Badr Bahini. He told the meeting that 'anti-Islamist forces' must be resisted. He also emphasised organising the young generation in Al-Badr.

The then Jamaat amir Golam Azam at the party council of Kushtia district unit in the second week of August 1971 described the freedom fighters as 'criminals' and directed the party workers to resist them. He also personally oversaw the formation of Shanti Committees [Peace Committees] in every village of the country. He told the meeting that very soon the Razakars, Mojahids, and the police would be able to resist the 'criminals', said document no 549 (159)-PL.S (I) signed by the then home secretary to erstwhile provisional government of East Pakistan MM Kazim on September 14, 1971.


The original article was published in The Daily Star on 19/12/2007. Please click HERE for the original article.

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Challenges posed by globalisation in operations management of a global company

1. Introduction

Globalisation of organisations is a phenomenon that has received much attention and been extensively discussed at cultural levels as well as at market and business levels. A company is considered global when more than half of its revenue comes from outside its home continent. (Gabrielsson, 2006)
In any globalisation process, distribution of goods and services between and within international industrial and consumer markets is of great importance. Globalisation removes the tangible and intangible borders. The intangible borders being the cultures and norms. Globalisation of markets and reorganization of distribution are mutually dependent processes that involve changes in market structures. Contemporary examples of this are the emergence of global supply chains, internationalisation of wholesale, retail and transportation firms and the development of sales via the Internet. In this discussion, the nature of the challenges in creating and maintaining interdependence between markets from different countries and the reorganisation of distribution is discussed. The discussion concludes with some observations on the challenges faced by globalisation.

2. Role of ICT

One of the key accelerators of globalisation is the improvement of information and communication technology. Here we can look at the call centre industry of Ireland as an example. The Irish call centre industry was a thriving business due to cheap cost of employment and the vast English speaking population of Ireland. After the improvement of ICT, Indian call centres are posing a massive threat and took a big chunk of Irish call centre market share with its highly educated call centre staff. On top of that, Germany and France are pressing for minimum EU corporate tax to compete with Irish call centres as Ireland had a lower tax threshold than most of the EU countries. (Jobs, 2006) Thus globalisation has turned the world into a small village with the help of ICT and has made different parts of the world to work together for one common goal of product and service excellence.

3. Challenges for the firms operating globally

In today’s business world, the firms that are operating globally are facing the task of getting the best possible outcome for its shareholder. The firms’ management are trying to utilise resources from different parts of the world to sustain the competitive advantage. There are quite a few challenges that are faced by the managers while trying to ensure the process of running all operations worldwide smoothly. Below are the few challenges that are prevalent in global operations management.

3.1 Product & service design

Although the attraction of expanding business to gain economies of scale is high, it is not always easy to expand globally. The products cannot just be boxed and shipped to be sold overseas. The products produced in a home country need to be modified and adjusted according to the export country need. For example, the cars produced in England are relatively smaller than their American counterparts. People in the USA like to drive bigger cars and the bigger cars are more affordable in the USA due to cheaper fuel prices. The cars in USA also have more features in the cars than that of UK cars. Automatic gear, air-conditioning and carpets are standard for American car market whereas consumers have to pay extra premium to get these features added to their cars in Europe. If European or Japanese car makers want to export cars to USA, they would have to adopt those US standards. These changes might result in reduced profit margin or even loss for the company.

3.2 Culture

According to Hofstede (1991) culture is “collective programming of the mind” that distinguishes the members of one group from another. Culture is learned and shared within social collectives. A distinction can be made between organisation and national culture. Both the cultures affect the business in some way. The national culture often force the business organisations to modify their business products/services and the procedures of running the business. It has a big impact of creating an organisation culture within an organisation which is operating in different countries. The organisation cultures sometimes vary from country to country. We can draw the same example of car manufacturers here. Since the US car market prefers bigger car, the European car manufacturers will be forced to produce bigger cars for US car markets if they wish to survive there. Here the culture of gas guzzling American cars is forcing the Europeans to adapt.

3.3 Legal issues

Legal requirements in a different country often dictate improvement and modification of the home country product. For example, it is a legal requirement in USA for the cars to be fitted with airbags and catalytic converter. But this is not often the case in the countries like china and India. So if the car manufacturers in China or India wish to export their products to American market, they would have to fit those extra features stated above. This would cause more complexity in production planning and control, thus making the process less efficient.

3.4 Supply chain Management

With the increase of global business, the global supply chain management has become a common phenomenon. The global supply chain management encounters some challenges which are not so common in a domestic supply chain management. Below are some of the challenges that are prevalent in global supply chain management.

(a) Cost

The first thing a company needs to consider when it goes global is the cost issue. Although locally produced product may give a cost advantage for some aspect of supply chain, the company need to consider the tax implications, costs of space and other expenses related to doing business overseas. The company would need to find a balance between outsourcing and home production advantage. Sometimes it would work out cheaper to produce products in a different country due to cheap labour but then the quality of the product maybe compromised due to lack of skilled labours in a foreign country.

(b) Time

Time is another big issue that poses a challenge to global supply chain management. If overseas employees are chosen, they may not be equally skilled which might cause disruption in production and result in delay. Sometimes political situations, inefficiency in port may cause delay as well. Few other factors can play part in delay too, for example, red tape in some countries might mean that customs clearance take longer time. Also natural calamities can cause unexpected loss while shipping the products to different countries.

(c) Distribution:

The global supply chain often negotiates the challenge of distribution across the globe. By being global the distribution process requires complex process of engaging production facilities in different parts of the world, a number of warehouses and distribution centres. If the supply chain isn’t maintained correctly it creates bullwhip effect which creates a huge gap between demand and supply eventually.

(d) Supplier selection

When the firms start operating globally, an important step is to organise the supplier selection and management processes. Some of the things firms do is to measure and rate the performance of the suppliers in terms of delivery time, prices, flexibility, improvement processes and quality.

According to Pilkington (2007), supplier development teams are another way that firms can implement lean supply ideas. Here, the central firm in the chain has a group of specialists it can send out to smaller firms in the chain to help them develop better systems and technologies. This sharing of expertise is very much part of the lean approach and benefits both sides of the relationship. However, it may be hard for some firms to develop this level of openness after having worked in the more confrontational price-dominated environment of the purchasing function.

(e) Information

The information is a vital component of global supply chain management. In a global company it is often hard to keep the free flow of information running. The information integration is imperative for the marrying up of systems and process through the supply chain and transfer valuable information about demands, forecasts, inventory and transportation.

(f) Location of the plants

Locations of plants are another consideration for global supply change management. It is sometimes quite difficult to supply products from just one plant in the home country. A foreign plant can save costs. Also sometimes it is easier to manage a plant which is situated where the sources of raw materials are. This saves a lot of transportation cost.


3.5 ERP & Information System

Companies with global presence also face problem when implementing enterprise resource planning (ERP) and information systems across the organisation. In a company with global presence, it is quite often found that, every country’s operations are managed differently to other. If that organisation decides to implement ERP across the organisation, it requires a serious change in the organisation culture as well as how it operates.

In a study on Nestlé by Tom Steinert-Threlkel (2006), the author examines the challenges faced by Nestlé while implementing an ERP across the organisation.
According to the case study, between 1994 and 1999, Nestle increased it’s spending on information systems from $575m to $750m. In April 2000, the CEO had enough with its SAP R/2 ERP software which was allowing thousands of different configured supply chains, multiple methods of forecasting and demand, and innumerable ways of invoicing customers and collecting payments. These inconsistencies were having a negative impact on Nestlé’s profits. So Nestle launched a $2.4bn initiative to compel its markets heads around the world to adopt a single set of business processes and systems for procurement, distribution and sales management.

The project was to be called GLOBE (Global Business Excellence) which was to harmonise processes, standardise data and standardise systems. All of the Nestlé’s business units worldwide were to use the same processes for making sales commitments, establishing factory production schedules, billing customers, compiling management reports and reporting financial results. The worldwide business units were no longer to be permitted to adhere to local customs for conducting business except in cases where the laws of a particular country required they do so. The project was launched on 4th July, 2000 and was to be implemented by December 2003.

After studying the experience of the competitors and receiving feedback from consultants at PricewaterhouseCoopers and deployment experts at SAP the project leaders found out that the parameters of the project had to be adjusted. GLOBE required a larger staff, more funding and a larger window of time than the executive board had allotted. In the end the budget was changed to $3.2bn and the target was changed to implement the new standardised system in ‘majority of company’s key markets’ by the end of 2005.

The project leader recruited 400 executives from Nestlé operations from around the world and got them to write down 1000 processes, divided into 45 sets of solutions that focused on disciplines such as planning or financial reporting. These solutions were finalised after careful scrutiny of the GLOBE managers.

The biggest challenge that came across the project was changing the culture of the organisation across the globe. The managers resisted the idea of giving up control over their business processes to participate in a centralised solution. They thought standardising the back office across the globe was impractical.

But by mid 2005 the company could see the benefits of implementing the financial reporting system and after a few more slight hiccups; the system was operational in 80% of Nestlé’s units by the end of 2006.


3.6 Quality planning and control

Total Quality Management (TQM) is an effort to improve all components of a business simultaneously. Most of the challenges faced by TQM implementation in a locally based company multiply when TQM is applied in a globally based company. One of the biggest challenges in TQM is to guide the change towards the right direction. The challenge is even bigger in an organisation with global presence. According to Huq (2005), TQM implementation requires changes in structure, system, and process as a necessary precondition to achieve improved business performance and changes in employee behaviour. As we have seen from the Nestlé case study, it is quite difficult to change the systems and processes of a company with a global presence. Moreover, it requires a lot of time to implement.

3.7 Political

Political environment of a country can pose a challenge to a company’s globalisation initiative. If we consider IT products, some of the countries have strict control over IT infrastructure than the others. When Google and Yahoo! moved to China, they had to modify their search engine and other services according to the strict guideline of the Chinese government. In India, when Coca Cola was planning to build a water purifying plant for its drinks, there was a huge outcry as the plant was supposed to be built on a farmland and the local people opposed to the government’s decision to allocate farmland to a global soft drink giant. There were also allegations against Coca Cola that they were contaminating the water and causing damage to the environment in several parts of India. Coca cola eventually had to go to Indian high court to restore their right to operate on Indian soil.

3.8 Uncertainty

Global business endeavour can pose uncertainty in the business infrastructure. If a company has multinational presence, one country’s economic or political condition can affect the whole company’s performance. For example, there was a recent slump in dollar valuation in the United States. If a British company has a plant in the US, when its profit is transferred from USA to UK it will be lower than expected due to the weak US dollar exchange rate.

The unexpected incidents of one country can affect the multinational and trans-national companies as well. For example, after 9/11, lot of multinational companies lost their share value in NYSE. It also forced many companies into bankruptcy.

More recently in 2007, Barclays bank of UK who had invested $1bn in US sub prime mortgage lender New Century were caught up after the sub prime mortgage crisis in the USA. The sub prime mortgage crises emerged in the USA as the interest rate rose and the price of the property decreased. (Times, 03/03/2007)

Some companies, who don’t have much international exposures, can also be affected by this kind of financial problems. For example, British lender Northern Rock faced a similar crisis when the US sub prime mortgage market collapsed. Northern Rock, who used to gain it’s fund via short term Commercial paper and used to lend for longer term, got caught up by the liquidity fear by it’s customers who had started withdrawing their savings from Northern Rock accounts. Northern Rock had to borrow $20bn to keep the bank’s liquidity.

Local companies who have global influence or heavy reliance on global political and economic climate are also vulnerable. For example, after the SARS break out in South-East Asia and Iraq war in 2003, Singapore Airlines which was the most profitable airline of Asia ran into loss of $312m. The SARS also affected tourism industry of many countries in South-East Asia including Thailand, Hong Kong and Singapore. (BBC, 30/07/2003)

4. Conclusion

Globalisation is the all pervasive phenomenon in today’s business world. Even a small company can gain the advantage of globalisation by operating its call centre from a different country and provide its customer with the required services at a cheaper cost. Although it is quite difficult to manage a company with a global presence because of the various challenges in the integration of operations management of the company’s global infrastructure and culture, the merits of globalisation in today’s business organisations can not be ignored.


5. Reference


(i) BBC (2003) Historic loss for Singapore Airlines [Internet] July 30, 2003.
Available at:
http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/business/3110251.stm [Accessed 19 November, 2007]
(ii) Gabrielsson, P. Gabrielsson, M & Darling, J. Globalizing internationals: product strategies of ICT manufacturers. 2006. International Marketing Review. Vol. 23. No 6. pp 650-671.
(iii) Hofstede, G. (1991), Cultures and Organizations: Software of the Mind, McGraw-Hill, New York
(iv) Huq, Z. Managing change: a barrier to TQM implementation in service industries. Managing Service Quality. Vol. 15 No. 5 2005 pp. 452-469
(v) Hosking, P. (2007) Barclays carrying $1bn of exposure to sub-prime lender. Times Online. [Internet] March 06, 2007.
Available at: http://business.timesonline.co.uk/tol/business/industry_sectors/banking_and_finance/article1475575.ece [Accessed 19 November, 2007]
(vi) Jobs, C & Butler, D. (2006) A case study in the globalization of jobs in Ireland. International journal of social economics. Vol 33. No 10. Pp 666-676.
(vii) Mattsson, L. (2003). Reorganization of distribution in globalization of markets: the dynamic context of supply chain management. Supply Chain Management: An International Journal. Vol. 8 No. 5 pp. 416-426
(viii) Slack, N., Chambers, S. & Johnston, R. 2001. Operations Management. 3rd ed. London: FT Prentice Hall.
(ix)Steineret-Threlkeld, T. (2006). Nestlé pieces together its global supply chain. Baseline Magazine.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

The possibilities and limitations for transferring Japanese lean production work practices to British institutional environment

Introduction:

‘Lean production system’ is a very popular generic mass production management system. It is also known as ‘Toyota Production System’. Lean system develops highly responsive systems whereby companies produce “goods and services exactly when they are needed: not before they are needed so that they wait as inventory, nor after they are needed so that it is the customers who have to wait”. (Slack, 2001) It is based on three key principles, eliminate waste, involving everyone and continuous improvement.

The lean system was developed by Taiichi Ohno at Toyota in the 1950s. Taiichi was a manufacturing manager and was facing difficulties because of poor supply conditions. He couldn’t plan ahead as he couldn’t predict the supply of raw materials. This was causing cash flow problems as the plan was making more and more unfinished vehicles that couldn’t be sold. To identify which parts were missing he developed a system for linking production stages together very closely and termed it as Just-in-time (JIT) system, using an approach called Kanban which means Signal/Ticket in Japanese. From this the JIT started to evolve and Toyota still says they are still developing the whole lean production system.

In addition to the JIT workflow, the main elements of lean production are flexible job structure and multiskilling, continuous improvement (Kaizen) and high commitment HRM policies where the company allows job security, training, participation and information sharing.

The Lean production, being a very successful system, has been adopted in my countries. In this essay, we will discuss the possibilities and limitations for transferring Japanese lean production work practices to British institutional environment.

Lean Production and HRM:

The introduction of lean production system has a tremendous impact of an organisation’s HRM system. One impact of lean production is level scheduling. The lean production is also very result orientated, so the performance is also a very integral part of Lean production and we all know that only a very good HRM can bring good performance in an organisation. Therefore, Lean production and HRM are correlated in a company’s performance. Rosalind Forrester (1995) has discussed some of the impacts of Lean production on HRM, some of them are described below.

(i) Organisational style and structure:

The Lean process usually demands development of a number of interrelated policies covering virtually every aspect of personnel policy and practice. The transformation from ‘leader’ oriented work to ‘team’ oriented work is usually the biggest change which is evident. In this lean system, through empowerment the difference between traditional white and blue collar workers is lifted. The change in role has implications for organisational structure, creating flatter structures focused on process, not hierarchies. The whole lean process is a people-centred one, with employees becoming more involved and flexible. Lean production has to be a people-driven process, because only the employees can identify ways of improving the existing process or product.

(ii) Culture:

One of the cultural changes that become visible is the waste reduction. This has an impact on both macro and micro departmental level. The whole culture production department shifts away from pushing as much material out to the shop floor, to a system of materials being pulled to the line as production requires them. As a result the tasks of warehouse staff become less to do with goods coming into warehouse, and more focused on the increased frequency of delivery both from suppliers and to the line, which has to be co-ordinated through the Kanban (signalling/ticketing) system. Team leaders usually get involved in the floor level work with other team members, thus, hierarchy is diminished in an organisation.

(iii) Role and selection in job style and flexibility:

As discussed before, the idea of developing a team forces the creation of the concept of team leaders rather than the managers. The team leaders have a broader role than the traditional managers. Their duties usually encompass production of their team, housekeeping, repairs, minor maintenance and quality control. From the HRM perspective, this requires a new selection strategy for the recruitment of team leader who is able to do multi-tasking.

The roles of team members also shift with the introduction of more flexible job descriptions and involves multi-tasking. Individual employees no longer have their own jobs, but have a collection of team responsibilities. To assist in this process each separate task which is carried out is now required to be performed in the “one best way”.

The move towards Lean process puts stress not only on production processes, but also on individuals, making any weak links vulnerable, and drawing attention to the importance of having the right employee in the right position. This forces the recruiters to review the validity and reliability of their selection programmes for every level of the organization.

(iv) Training:

The team members in an organisation need to be trained on a broader range of work as a result of lean production to include different processes and techniques instead of being concerned purely with how to carry out a single operation. Specific courses have to be introduced to provide the team members with the skills of continuous improvement or Kaizen, allowing them to be able to alter their workplace and solve their own problems. This again takes the responsibility away from previous management roles, changing hierarchy of the organization.


(v) Problem solving:

Lean production triggers the bias towards problem solving in an organisation. Any weaker links in the production process is immediately rectified. This problem solving often improves the employee motivation and thus increases the overall performance of the organisation.


(vi) Remuneration:

Most often, the introduction of Lean production brings along a different pay structure in an organisation. The package can be organised so that it can create a package which would include base pay and other experience and performance related incentives.

Implications of Lean Production in British Industries:

Following the implementation of Lean production in Japan and the subsequent success stories of them, the British companies had started to adopt the Lean production concept. Below we will look at the case studies from different industries in Britain and see how well the Lean production fitted in the British industries. We will see the how the implementation of Lean production have affected the performance of the company which we can then translate into the success of HRM in Lean production as we know by now that HRM is an integral part of Lean production.

(a) British auto industry:

In a study on British car manufacturing companies, the authors David Primost and Nick Oliver (2003) have conducted a research of the Lean production and the subsequent financial performance. For research purposes, they collected data using two samples – a ‘visited’ sample and a ‘confirmatory’ sample. The visited sample was formed from two hundred UK automotive plants. The ‘confirmatory’ sample comprised 130 single-plant automotive component firms which filed annual accounts with the Registrar of Companies. They found that, in the UK automotive components industry, lean production adoption has not had a significant positive effect on financial performance. The results of this study show that successful lean production adoption is the exception rather than the rule. Managers in countries such as the UK should therefore be very concerned about whether they are in a suitable environment for successful lean production adoption and whether they have the necessary skills and experiences for implementing such techniques. Furthermore, the managers of many of the best performing plants had obtained guidance in lean production implementation – for instance, in tailoring adoption to their specific plant circumstances.

(b)British Telecom:

Michael Robertson and Carole Jones (1999) looked into the Lean production and Agile manufacturing in British Telecom. According to the authors, agile manufacturing is a part of Lean production which encompasses four basic principles which are, “(1) Products are solutions to customers' individual problems. (2) Virtual organisations are formed where products are brought to market in minimum time through internal and external co-operation. (3) Entrepreneurial approaches are adopted so that organisations thrive on change and uncertainty. (4) Knowledge-based organisations are formed which focus on distributed authority supported by information technology.”

In the case study, the authors analysed the process of BT which has started to apply some Lean and agile manufacturing for the entire telephony and provision service for residential and small business customers. From the call centre reception of orders/faults to the engineering workforce are under the customer services division. This helps to run the whole process from a customer service perspective rather than just sales or just repairing perspective. The training and development focus has been on multiskilling the field workforce this offers job satisfaction to the employees as well as allowing flexibility to them. BT has also implemented a proactive maintenance. It has an automated system that carries out checks and warns against potential failure. Which helps its staff to take preventive measures before breakdown before the problem occurs.

(c) Toyota’s UK plant:

Toyota has been largely regarded as the pioneer of lean production system. The article details research conducted by Winfield & Kerrin (1996) into the impact that Toyota’s European transplant operation is having on businesses in the region. It is within this business context that Toyota (UK) Ltd commenced producing cars for the European market in December 1993. Toyota chose Derby as its European site as it’s known for its precision engineering skills. Also it was outside of the traditional car manufacturing base of the West Midlands which was in decline. Toyota had employed 2000 people in their plant. This huge amount of employment created a shift in management style and level of production regionally. Toyota also sealed long term contract with its suppliers to ensure the workability of JIT system. Toyota also ensured that its personnel frequently visited the suppliers manufacturing facility and provides technical expertise as well as management training for the supplier’s employees. In some cases Toyota redesign the jobs of the supplier plants. Thus by opening a plant in UK Toyota not only successfully started operating using their Lean production system but also made its suppliers to adopt it. This had brought a change in the way companies operate supply chain system in the region.

(d)British Meat Industry:

In a paper titled ‘Application of lean paradigm in red meat processing’, David Simons and Keivan Zokaei (2005) explains how some lean techniques can improve productivity and quality in red meat cutting plants. According to the study, the two basic lean techniques are Takt-time , which is the basis for smooth continuous production flow and Standardised work, which is the basis for continuous improvement. Authors take a multiple case study approach in this paper. Two sets of case studies present examples from both traditional and advanced meat cutting rooms.

The traditional and advanced meat cutting rooms demonstrated different levels of

productivity and quality based on activity sampling and observation. The traditional cutting rooms had no concept of Lean production. These lines were run at a fast pace producing the waste of “over-production” resulting in variable flow, non-standard work and intermittent operator activity. The advanced lines all run at a pace that operators can apply standard operations and cut to the correct quality. The paper cautiously concludes on operator activity, that traditional lines run at 60 per cent and advanced lines run at 80 per cent; and therefore advanced lines can operate with 25 per cent less labour cost due to improved line balance.

Lean Production and Sustainable Competitive Advantage (SCA):

Michael Lewis (2000) looks at a British company, a multinational company based in Belgium and a French company and finds out how Lean production is impacting the achievement the companies’ SCA. We will just focus on the British firm’s performance for this essay. The company employs 430 people manufacturing electrical sub-assemblies for automotive control systems. The research shows that the British firm had shown a dramatic rise in performance after adopting Lean production. The company had reduced its process inventory by 60%. They have also seen the growth in sales, but overall profit declined. The company was also located close to its customers’ assembly plants which helped the process of Lean production. But with the increase of business, eventually the company had to increase its transportation cost as the new clients were far away from its production plant. The company also found that in 5 years of study, it only released 8 new products. Within the timeframe of the study, the British company enjoyed an impressive lead-time improvement. It was subject to 3 original equipment manufactures’ ‘time-to-market’ initiative and this became a key performance indicator of the firm. Any activity that wasn’t considered contributing directly to the relationships with its partners was eliminated which contributed into staff gaining broader problem solving skills and were able to become experts.

Lean Production and Stress:

In the article “The effects of lean production on worker job stress” the authors have investigated whether Lean production in the British industries are causing stress among the employees.

Stress affects both employees and organisations. Kvarnstrom (1997), of the

International Labour Organisation (ILO), reports that stress may harm individual health and the ability to cope with working and social situations, causing work performance and relationship strains. For organisations, stress causes absenteeism, increased medical costs and higher turnover. According to the article, in Britain, this amounted to about 20 million lost working days in 2001, more than 30 times greater than industrial action losses.

Lean production operates in a ceaseless and well synchronised material flow. It improves performances but at the same time it increases the intensity of work. This potentially poses stress on its workers. For this reason the process is often termed as Lean ‘Mean ’ Production. The research conducts an implementation hypothesis which shows the relation between Lean implementation and job stress was non-linear. The initial implementation stage shows increasing stress as implementation proceeds at low levels. Stress then levels off in a middle stage until it reaches an inflection point. Further implementation shows decreased stress. [See the figure above (Conti, 2006)] After analysing further hypotheses and industry samples, the authors conclude that the Lean production doesn’t necessary have to be stressful. It all depends on its compatibility of health standards and ‘good implementation’.

Lean Production and EU Regulation:

In 1990, European countries were unified into a common market for goods, services, capital and labour which is called the European Union (EU). The taxation for business across the borders of the European countries was removed or in some occasions was more unified. The labour laws however, still remained different. Some countries had a minimum age polices, while others didn’t. There is a maximum workweek hours permitted for Italy which is 48 hours, whereas in UK there is no limit of workweek hours in UK. This type of intra-country differences often impacts the Lean production. (Dessler, 1995)

Lean Production and Trade Union:

A trade union is an organisation of workers. It bargains with the employer on behalf of union members and negotiates labour contracts with employers which could include the negotiation of wages, work rules, complaint procedures, rules governing hiring, firing and promotion of workers, benefits, workplace safety and policies. Traditionally in UK the trade unions are trade based which is also known as Industrial Union. These types of unions attempt to organise all workers within a particular industry. But under Lean production one company usually has only trade union for its employees. This helps the management to negotiate with employees easily they just have to speak to just one representative rather than a lot of different union representatives from different types of employees in an organisation.

Conclusion:

From the discussion above, we have seen that, although some British companies have enjoyed success after implementing the Lean production, the process doesn’t necessarily guarantee the improvement of performance in all of the British industries. Managers in countries such as the UK should therefore be very cautious about whether they are in a suitable environment for successful lean production adoption and whether they have the necessary skills and experiences for implementing such techniques.

References:

  1. Conti, R., Angelis, J., Cooper, C., Faragher, B & Gill, C. The effects of lean production on worker job stress.(2006). International Journal of Operations & Production Management. Vol. 26 No. 9 pp-1013-1038.
  2. Dessler, G. (2005). Human Resource Management. 10th ed. NY: Prentice Hall.
  3. Edwards, T. & Rees, C (2006). International Human Resource Management. 1st ed. London: FT Prentice Hall.
  4. Forrester, R.(1995). Implications of lean manufacturing for human resource strategy. Work study. Vol 44. No 3. pp. 20-24
  5. Forza, C. (1996). Work organization in lean production and traditional plants: What are the differences? International Journal of Operations & Production Management. Vol. 16 No. 2 1996 pp. 42-62
  6. Kvarnstrom, S. (1997), “Stress prevention for blue-collar workers in assembly-line production”, CONDI/TWP.1.
  7. Lewis, M.A. 2000. Lean production and sustainable competitive advantage. International journal of operations and production management. Vol. 20. No. 8. Pp 959-978.
  8. Primost, D. & Oliver, N. (2003). Does Lean Production Enhance Financial Performance? The Case of UK Automotive Components Plants. EurOMA-POMS Conference, Como, Italy.
  9. Robertson, M. & Jones, C. (1999). Application of lean production and agile manufacturing concepts in telecommunications environment. International journal of agile management systems. Vol.1 No.1 pp 14-16.
  10. Scarbrough, H. & Terry, M. (1998) Forget Japan: the very British response to lean production. Employee relations. Vol. 20. No 3. pp. 224-236.
  11. Simmons, D., Shadur, M. A. & Preston, A.P. (1995) Integrating TQM and HRM. Employee relations. Vol. 17. No. 3. Pp. 75-86.
  12. Simmons, D. & Zokaei, K. (2005). Application of lean paradigm in red meat processing. British food journal. Vol 107.No 4. Pp 192-211.
  13. Slack, N., Chambers, S. & Johnston, R. (2001) Operations Management. 3rd ed. London: FT Prentice Hall.
  14. Stewart, P. (1998). Out of chaos comes order: from Japanization to lean production: A critical commentary. Employee Relations. Vol. 20 No. 3 pp. 213-223
  15. Walton, R.E., Susman (1987), People policies for the new machines. Harvard Business Review, No.2, pp.98-106.
  16. Waters, D. (2002). Operations Management: Producing goods and services. 2nd ed. London: FT Prentice Hall.
  17. Winfield, I. & Kerrin, M. (1996).Toyota motor manufacturing in Europe: lessons for management development. Journal of management development. Vol. 15. No. 5. Pp. 49-56.