Monday, April 04, 2011

Atul Agarwal studies lean operations systems and quality in business

University of Illinois Springfield Associate Professor of Production Operations Management Atul Agarwal studies waste and product quality issues in business that cost companies money. His research focuses on ways to reduce waste using lean operations systems.

“Waste could be overproduction, re-working, defects, or anything that a customer does not want to pay money for,” said Agarwal.

On a recent trip to a production plant, he witnessed workers dropping nuts and bolts when assembling cars and not picking them up.

“When it fell down, there was no motivation to pick it up. To them it was a small piece of metal scrap waste and they just kicked it under the machine,” he said.

But if you add up all the nuts and bolts on the floor the money starts to add up. Other companies, such as Toyota, have realized the waste taking place by using lean operations systems and now look at the scrap metal as “cash on the floor.”

Agarwal uses toy cars to demonstrate assembly line efficiency to his students. The students learn how important it is to have a good relationship with part suppliers and how to save money during production.

“One of the important elements is the standardization, which means can I use the same chassis and transmission to produce different models of cars,” he said.

His research into quality involves looking at companies, such as Coke and Pepsi, who have been known to ship out empty cans of soda.

“Customers have paid $1 to drink 12 fluid ounces. This is a classic quality problem,” said Agrwal.

In today’s economy, he says it's more important than ever for United States companies to increase competitiveness, grow productivity, and do it at a low cost.

For more information visit the Management Information Systems website.

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