The History of Operation & Production Management
Operation and production management is not a new concept, in fact its history dates back to the late 18th century. Beginning just prior to the industrial revolution, and continuing into the 21st century, operation and production management has continually developed, allowing for greater and greater production efficiency. Management students and practitioners will benefit from understanding these developments.
The earliest account of operations and production management is given by Adam Smith in his book, "An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations," published in 1776. In this work, Smith explains how the division of labor allows for more efficient production. According to Smith, people are more efficient producers if each person works on a single component, rather than building the product from start to finish.
In the 19th century, technological advancements gave rise to the use of interchangeable parts. These are components to a product that are standardized according to precise specifications. Previously, each component had to be custom fit to the specific product. Industrialists such as Eli Whitney and Marc Isambard Brunel used interchangeable parts to develop highly efficient production systems in which workers could simply build components that would be assembled at the end of the process.
In the early 20th century, Henry Ford took the division of labor and the use of interchangeable parts one step further, creating the assembly line method of manufacturing. This method revolutionized operation and production management, allowing Ford to produce a high volume of cars at affordable prices. This method of production has been adopted by many other producers, allowing for the mass production of cheap consumer goods.
In the latter half of the 20th century, several operation and production management systems have been developed. The focus of most of these systems is on creating even greater efficiency in the production process. Some of the more popular systems have included Six Sigma, which was developed by Motorola; lean manufacturing, which was developed by Toyota; and ISO 9000, which was developed by the International Organization for Standardization.