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Dealing with delays

Published: 2013-09-10

Professor Manus (Johnny) Rungtusanatham and PhD candidate Jason Miller

Murphy's Law is everywhere, especially so in the design, manufacture, and delivery of high-tech products. Supplies are delayed, equipment breaks down, parts are defective, and customers change their mind midstream. What can manufacturers do to minimize these common delays?

Research by Fisher's M. Johnny Rungtusanatham (pictured left) and Jason Miller found that information systems (IS) infrastructure -- the manner by which relevant information about product design, process needs, suppliers, etc., is captured, documented, and made accessible -- plays a major role in preventing routine manufacturing and delivery disruptions.

The study analyzed survey data from production planners at 73 manufacturing plants across 18 countries for seven complex, high-tech products. The study found:

  • A centralized IS infrastructure helps prevent routine customer delivery disruptions when the departments responsible for the products (sales, product design, manufacturing, etc.) have very specialized, highly interdependent work outputs -- whereas a decentralized IS infrastructure prevents disruptions when departments have independent work outputs
  • When the departments responsible for the product are highly specialized but their work outputs are moderately interdependent, neither a highly centralized nor a highly decentralized IS infrastructure helps prevent routine disruptions from becoming delivery failures

In addition, the study identified the lesser of two evils when dealing with mismatched IS infrastructures. Selecting a highly decentralized IS infrastructure when a centralized IS infrastructure is necessary has fewer drawbacks than choosing a highly centralized IS infrastructure when a highly decentralized IS infrastructure is required.

Research in progress