Chapter 28. Process Innovation in Operations

John E.Ettlie and Shalini Khazanchi

Rochester Institute of Technology

In order to improve efficiency when producing a product or providing value to customers, organizations routinely innovate their service and production operations by introducing new tools and technologies, devices, and knowledge (e.g., Damanpour and Gopalakrishnan, 2001; Utterback and Abernathy, 1975). Service innovation is taken up in Chapter 27 so we restrict ourselves here to process innovation primarily in manufacturing where the accumulated literature has matured.

In the 40 years since Charles R. Walker's book Technology, Industry, and Man: the Age of Acceleration (1968) was published, writers such as David F. Noble (Forces of Production: A Social History of Industrial Automation, 1984) and many others have been prophetic in predicting the folly of context-free thinking which dominated much of the philosophy of managers of that era. In a similar vein, Wickham Skinner approached the issue of organizing production from a different perspective, asking the simple question: "What is the purpose of corporate manufacturing and strategies?" This question ultimately resulted in the concept of the focused factory—still independent of the R&D context which was about to dominate the scene and deflect attention once again from the context, since the focused factory materials did not deal with innovation. Therefore, in this chapter we will discuss in detail innovation in operations ...

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