'Operations strategy is the total pattern of decisions which shape the long-term capabilities of any type of operations and their contribution to the overall strategy, through the reconciliation of market requirements with operations resources.(Slack and Lewis).
The performance dimensions helps us to analyse SSF's operational strategy in a way which is easy to read and interpret
Sizzling Stir Fry try to reduce the costs by making use of all the materials that they get into the warehouse. They use a stock rotation process which allows all the materials to be used and therefore reduces the waste of materials. By doing this, it also allows the company to produce the 'bulk' products potentially reducing the amount of materials they have to order in. The machinery used during the processing also helps reduce the costs, the carrot cutting machine for example is a way of reducing the amount of staff required. Also the computer weight machines enable the correct weight to be used during the processing reducing the amount of waste materials.
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"Able to change or be changed easily according to the situation"(dictionary). Sizzling Stir Fry need to be flexible in order to satisfy the customers requirements. The company often has to produce different products at different times of year and depending on the promotion the customer has on. The products SSF order from the suppliers are based on a 'Sales Forecast', that forecast is a 'questimate' of what products need to be sold. If the orders received are at short notice and are different to the prediction, the customer will still want the product on time, the company must be flexible and find ways of getting hold of the right materials. The company therefore must be flexible on the amount of staff they have at work at different times, all depending on the orders being placed by the customers.
The speed of the operations is an essential part of SSF because they are dealing with food. The customer expects the product to be as fresh as possible so that they can have a longer shelf life. If the company has an order of promotional products, they will order in the 'floretted' broccoli ,for example, to cut out a part of the processing therefore saving time. The process from receiving the materials to producing the product is around 48 hours, this fast turnover not only allows the stock rotation system to flourish but provides the customer with fresher products therefore increasing their shelf value and overall customer satisfaction.
"The degree of excellence intended, and the control of variability in achieving that excellence, in meeting the customer's requirements" (lovelock,C. Managing Services, 1998, p239). This definition is very true of the operations of the Sizzling Stir Fry. They have a big emphasis on the quality of their products, this is evident from all aspects of the operation. Before the Staff enter an area where they could be in contact with the product, they have to wear protective clothing and go through a rigorous step by step cleansing routine beforehand. This emphasis on hygiene is also evident in the processing of the product, the machines and equipment are cleaned after every type of product has passed though reducing the risks of colour changing in their product and therefore affecting the quality of the product. Another example of the extent to which the company goes to ensure the quality their product is the machinery used in the processing, the weight machines and metal detectors ensure that the product meets the customer's requirements. Ensuring the customers requirements regarding quality is a key aspect of the company's operational strategy. Lovelock also states in his ideas on quality that, "Management must go beyond the thinking of inspection as merely sorting out the good products from the bad but as preventing the bad products from reaching the customers". During the production process SSF hire a person to ensure no food gets stuck underneath the seal because this is what the customer doesn't want, it could be argued that by doing this they are preventing the bad products reaching the customer.
Always on Time
Marked to Standard
"If someone or something is dependable, you can trust them or have confidence in them" (dictionary). The dependability of the company's operations are an essential requirement for a customer and therefore steps must be taken to ensure that dependability. The orders received from the customers are often on promotion, this could either be a larger quantity of the same product or a new variety, and the customers would require the product to be of good quality and on time. Sizzling Stir Fry go to great lengths to ensure that their customers can depend on them, one of the ways in which they ensure this is the 'veg' is layered during the processing in order to keep the mix of the product consistent and even. The 'veg' if often bulk prepped so that if their is a sudden increase in the order of a product, the company can still prepare the product on time and of good quality for the customer. The specific wagon times for collection are a good way the company remain dependable to their customers, it allows the customer to know when to expect the product, and also exactly what products are put on the lorry.
As well as the performance dimensions proving a good insight into the operational strategy imposed by the company, some aspects of Porters 5 Forces also have provide a good insight. "The power of buyers is especially evident in economies where large retail chains dominate. They can become such major customers of manufactures that they can dictate product specification and price."(lovelock) it could be argued that SSF relies heavily on the business of a large retailer and that their operational strategy is based around pleasing the retailer.
In conclusion I feel that the operational strategy imposed by SSF focuses towards the quality , dependability and flexibility aspects of the performance dimensions without neglecting the speed and cost aspects. The Buyer power I also feel as an effect on how the company operates.
Four Vs Analysis
Bottle Neck Theory
Unloading Materials Stored at Goods In Hand Cut 'Prep' Slicing Machine
Stored in Boxes. QA checks Load and 'Layer' 'Pre wash'
'Bulk prep' Chlorine Check vegetables
Wash Tank 'Cent' tube: Spinning of excess water. Weight station 'Mezz'
Feed Trays/Bags Trays/bags filled with product Check for overhang
Load 'Bagged' into machine
Seal lids onto trays Metal Detection Weight Check Load product into
Output from process
Stored in Despatch Load into lorrys
When looking at the process flow diagram of Sizzling Stir Fry's operations, it is evident that the performance dimensions have an effect on the operations of the company.
With reference to the quality aspect of the business, this is evident at the very start of the process. The food brought in is put through a rotation system, and the process from start to finish lasts no longer than 48 hours, this keeps the food fresh and in good condition for the customer. During the preparation part of the process the product is first hand cut to a certain size before it is put through the cutting machine. This ensures that the food is of a consistent size, making it both easier to provide appropriate weight and quality for the customers. Before the food is washed, the water in the flume is chlorine checked on the hour. This ensures that the water is both at the appropriate level for cleaning the food but not so high that it will affect the quality of the food. During the cleansing process time is taken to layer the food when loading it into the flume, this ensures that there is a more even mix at the end of the process. After the food has been through the machine head mixers and put in the trays, SSF hires an employee who checks to make sure that the food isn't overhanging outside the tray because it 'doesn't look good on the shelves'. After that the trays are put through a machine which checks for metal and the correct weight, if the product contains metal or is not the correct weight than it is removed from the process. These measures taken by the company, during the processing, support the idea that quality is one if the main focuses of the operations.
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Dependability is also a priority at SSF and this is evident in the process flow of the operations. The materials are ordered in based on projections, but the orders from the customers are often at short notice. To remain dependable to the customers SSF 'bulk prep' their product to account for the orders made at such short notice. The measures taken by the company to ensure the quality of the product also make them dependable, the customer requires a certain weight of food per unit, the company ensures this with the number of weighing stations throughout the process. During the machine heads operation the food is categorised into a base mix through to the more expensive exotic mix. The machine heads allow the company to provide the customer with a consistent product mix meaning that they can depend on SSF to provide what they order of good quality.
With flexibility being an important factor to the business, this is evident in the process flow of the company also. With the orders from the customers often coming at short notice, the products need to be processed just as quick as every other order. The 'prep' team are able to clean down and prep the appropriate 'veg' when the order comes through. By operating on a 24/hr basis, the company can quickly accommodate for a change in the forecast, the staff hired are also flexible, the operations manager will change how many staff to put on a shift dependent on the orders placed.
The company also takes measures during the processing to reduce the costs of the operations. The stock rotation enables the company reduce the waste by the stock going off. The weight checks during the process also enable the company to reduce the amount of product they produce so that they don't produce too much. A similar process happens when loading the vegetables into the washing flumes. The machines enable the operators to key in the required weight of each product, again reducing the potential for waste.
The speed aspect of the operation is still important to the company. The machines used throughout the process, although necessary, allow the company to make the process no longer than 48 hours. The carrot cutting machine, for example, used during the prep allows 3 carrrots to be cut for every 1 a person can do. The washing flumes process lasts only 3 minutes, by making the process this fast it allows the customer to receive the product sooner, which means they have a longer shelf life. The Lorry's have allocated pick up times to allow for a fast and efficient output process.
When assessing the critical elements of Sizzling Stir Fry's operations, using the principles of Lean can help us understand the positive and negative elements. Lean can be described as a philosophy that, "seeks to eliminate waste in all aspects of firm's production activities: Human relations, vendor relations, technology, and the management of materials and inventory." The 5 principles of lean are value, value stream, flow, pull and perfection. Lean is based around two philosophies , the elimination of waste and respect for people. The waste can be identified by Taiichi Ohno's 7 wastes, overproduction, waiting time, transport, process, inventory, motion and defective goods.
The 'value' can be described as value adding activities that transform the product closer to what the customer actually wants. The Company goes to lengths to ensure that the quality of the product is acceptable for the customer. The layering of the vegetables during the cleansing process is an example of a value adding activity SSF uses to ensure the product is of sufficient quality. Another example of this is the company hiring a person to remove any overhang from the trays, which again adds value to the product for the customer.
Flow can be described as linking all activities and processes into the most efficient combinations to maximise value added content while minimalising waste. When looking at SSF operations, the cleansing process is the most efficient combination of activities, also making it the fastest at only 3 minutes from start to finish. The operations at SSF could maximise the value added activity and minmalise the waste. The transport and waiting time elements of Taiichi Ohno's 7 wastes are present in the flow of SSF operations. The lead time from start to finish of SSF operations is 48 hours, but the actual value adding operations during that period is more like 15 minutes. The food is often stored at different stages of the operation, for example after the prep and storage in the mezz, this in the lean philosophy is classed as waste and therefore needs to be addressed. The transport of the product through the process is also classed as waste, the length of the conveyor belts are a good example of this.
The 'Pull' principle of lean thinking can be described as the response to the customers rate of demand, ie the actual customer demand that drives the supply chain. At present the company operates on a 'push' system, the inventory is brought in based on forecasts, and with that inventory being food it means that it needs to be processed within 48 hours. The materials are then passed through the process until they reach there next destination, often waiting (waste) between stages of the operation.
The 'Perfection' principle is based around the idea of producing exactly what the customer wants, exactly when, economically, and that anything and everything can be improved. With reference to the performance dimensions, the importance of quality, dependability and flexibility are all ways that SSF aspires to produce exactly what the customer wants.
Inventory (waste) is created to compensate for the differences in timing between supply and demand, this is present in the push system and less evident in the pull system. At SSF the materials are often cheaper when bought in bulk and also help remove a stage in the preparation process, this however is only cost effective when a product is on promotion and therefore only bought in these cases. The storage of the inventory have an effect on the cost on the operations, but it can be argued aid the dependability and speed aspects of the performance dimensions.
SSF have adopted a system which they 'make to order', this means that the company purchases the materials based on the forecasts, but also on the orders. There is an element of risk in using this system if the forecasts are wrong, also the customers often order promotional products at short notice menaing that efforts must be made to get the materials in time to remain dependable. The company often 'bulk preps' the food which increases the risks of the operation but again help the company remain flexible to the orders. The system adopted by the company is due to the dependent demand from the customers, the demand for food ordered is governed by the customer. As a result the company operates on a chase demand basis. This requires the company to be flexible in order to accommodate for the changes in demand. With the operations running 24 hours, it enables any increases in demand to be accommodated for, with the company having access to part time staff it allows them to be flexible.
The theory of constraints can be applied to the operations at SSF. It is based around the idea that , "the rate of revenue generated is limited by at least one constraining process. Only by increasing the throughput at the bottleneck process can overall throughput be increased." At Sizzling Stir Fry the process can produce around 90 boxes an hour but operate at only 45 boxes an hour. This is because the people at the storage cannot processes any more than 45 boxes efficiently, meaning that the storage process at the end of the operation acts as the 'bottleneck', restricting the throughput from the process. The company however is able to meet the demand from the customers whilst operating with the constraint, this is an example of how the company matches the working capacity to the 'drumbeat' of the bottleneck.