An Analysis of two Approaches to Improvement in the Engineeirng Industry. Comments on FMS and ABC/ABM
Doctoral thesis, 1997
This dissertation deals with two areas of improvement found in the engineering industry during the last 10 years: (1) Work design in advanced manufacturing systems; and (2) New approaches to systems control - ABC and ABM. The dissertation presents an analysis of the two areas along with their intrinsic potential and prospects. The disseration consists of five appended papers, Papers I-V; and a summarizing and reflective part, Thesis summary and synthesis.
In the first area, the research questions treated are primarily related to analyses of potential consequences from implementing FMS (Flexible Manufacturing System). Specific attention is given to the impact on autonomy - possibilities and constraints - and the subsequent influence on possible forms of work design. In the second area, the research questions treated are rather explorative since the subject (ABC and ABM) is emerging.
Comprehensively, the results of the overall research work, i.e., associated to the two objectives described above, show that there is a great deal of enthusiastic rhetoric but limited empirical evidence that confirms the concepts´ claimed potentials, i.e. the benefits from FMS or from ABC and ABM. My own conducted research - case analysis - showed that in both areas there was a rather uncritical adoption of FMS and ABC/ABM. Furthermore, also among researchers, there was rather uncritical adoption of FMS as a "problem solver", as to ABC/ABM, maybe somewhat less uncritical adoption. In both cases, several research studies had designs that sort of confirmed the benefits of either FMS or ABC/ABM.
It is argued that the two areas for improvements may be viewed as expert-driven design, are rather planning-heavy, and thereby constitute "programmatic change" approaches. The limited results from implementation of both FMS and ABC/ABM may be explained by that they are following an inadequate logic of change.