The Role of Information in Production Ramp-up Situations
Doctoral thesis, 2007
To meet customer demands and global competition, the frequency of new product introductions in the manufacturing industry has increased. As the frequency and thereby number of production ramp-ups increases, ramp-up will no longer be an occasional event but will become a part of daily production challenges. To achieve an efficient production ramp-up, the ability to handle both planned and unplanned changes in production systems, in this thesis called ‘critical events’, is vital. So far, the role of information related to production ramp-up has not been investigated in depth, despite its necessity for the understanding and handling of critical events.
This research explores the role of information used by human actors when handling critical events in production systems during production ramp-up situations. A systems approach was adopted and an empirical approach was used for three longitudinal case studies at two manufacturing companies in Sweden. Each case study involved production ramp-up of a new product and a new or modified production system at an assembly plant.
Critical events in production ramp-up situations have varying characteristics and are categorised in the following ways in this thesis: (1) the domain the event concerns, e.g. supply, product, equipment, and personnel; (2) whether the event is planned or unplanned, and if how to handle the event is known or unknown; and finally (3) the type of event, i.e. if routine, trained-for, or novel for personnel who handle the event. The majority of the critical events identified in this research was unplanned and considered as negative for the production ramp-up realisation and performance. Their unpredictable characteristics require them to be handled and learned from in real time. Handling as a form of control was found to be a key issue, since events that could be influenced or handled were not considered as critical as those that were beyond one’s control. Hence, the perceived criticality depends on the ability to handle critical events. To have the ability to handle an event, despite its character, understanding of the event is vital. Understanding presupposes relevant information for handling, i.e. information that makes a difference; domain and problem information which partly confirms and partly renews or updates the description in a ramp-up situation.
This research contributes knowledge about types of information needed when handling various types of critical events in relation to production ramp-up. Moreover, information sources and ways of dissemination for improved production ramp-up have been identified. An understanding of the information that enables handling of critical events in production systems can facilitate good ramp-up performance.
Sal HB2, Hörsalsvägen 8, Chalmers, Göteborg
Opponent: Tekn. Dr. Lena Moestam Ahlström, Volvo Technology AB, Sverige