Explore BrainMass

Production Management

Is there an alternative to the current operations approach of the maintenance department?

Please use this case study to answer the 4 production management questions.

Case Study - Worldwide Chemical Company

Jack Smith wiped the perspiration from his face. It was another scorching-hot summer day, and one of the four process refrigeration units was down. The units were critical to the operation of Worldwide Chemical Company's Fibers Plant, which produces synthetic fibers and polymer flake for a global market. Before long, Al Henson, the day-shift production superintendent, was on the intercom, shouting his familiar proclamation that "heads would roll" if the unit was not back on-line within the hour. However, Jack Smith, the maintenance superintendent, had heard it all before-nothing ever happened as a result of Henson's temper tantrums. "Serves him right," he thought. "Henson is uncooperative when we want to perform scheduled maintenance, so it doesn't get done and equipment goes down." At that moment, however, Henson was genuinely furious over the impact that the breakdown would have on his process yield figures.

Meeting with plant manager Beth Conner, he was charging that all the maintenance department did was "sit around" and play cards like firemen waiting for an alarm to send them to a three-alarm blaze across town. The "fix-it" approach to maintenance was costing the plant throughput that was vital to meeting standard costs and avoiding serious variances. Foreign competitors were delivering high-quality fibers in less time and at lower prices. Conner had already been called on the carpet at corporate headquarters over output levels that were significantly below the budgeted numbers.

The business cycle contained predictable seasonal variations. That meant building inventories that would be carried for months, tying up scarce capital, a characteristic of most continuous processes. Monthly shipments would look bad. Year-to-date shipments would look even worse because of machine breakdowns and lost output to date. Conner knew that something had to be done to develop machine reliability. Capacity on demand was needed to respond to growing foreign competition. Unreliable production equipment was jeopardizing the company's TQM effort by causing process variations that affected both first-quality product yields and on-time deliveries, but no one seemed to have the answer to the problem of machine breakdowns.

The maintenance department operated much like a fire department, rushing to a breakdown with a swarm of mechanics, some who disassembled the machine while others pored over wiring schematics and still others hunted for spare parts in the maintenance warehouse. Eventually, they would have the machine back up, though sometimes only after working through the night to get the production line going again. Maintenance had always been done this way. However, with new competitors, machine reliability had suddenly become a major barrier to competing successfully. Rumors of a plant closing were beginning to circulate and morale was suffering, making good performance that much more difficult. Beth Conner knew she needed solutions if the plant had any chance of survival.

Your answer should include information from your course materials and/or research when required, but, again, should be primarily in your own words. If you paraphrase or quote words or ideas from your course textbook or other resources, you should cite your sources. Your responses should be complete. Generally 200 to 300 words are required for a "complete" answer to an essay question.

Solution Preview

The response addresses the queries posted in 723 words with references.
//The purpose of this paper is to offer an alternative approach in order to address the issues of machine breakdown in the Worldwide Chemical Company. The present alternative will be suggested on the basis of problems identified through analysis of case study. The alternative approach will be developed in the specific context of the prevailing scenario in Worldwide Chemical Company.//

The analysis of case study clearly points out the issues, which are being faced by the Worldwide Chemical Company. The root of problems can be identified as "reliability of machines and their frequent breakdown". This major problem has ripple effects upon several aspects of the company including the level of output, overall costs, increasing gap between demand and supply, competition, and moreover a potential threat of plant shutdown.

//In this section of the paper, a potential alternative will be suggested that aims at enhancing the machine reliability and overall performance of the firm. //

It would be a prudent decision for the company to acquire a "Maintenance Management Decision Model". The case study suggests that the Worldwide Chemical Company is facing issues at all the three levels including strategic, ...

Solution Summary

The response addresses the queries posted in 723 words with references.