- Company investment potential - Assembly system selection is influenced by the company's policy towards investing in automation. If the company requires a payback period of less than one year then it is unlikely that any form of automated assembly system can be economically justified.
- Annual production volume – This determines the cycle time of the
system and automatic systems must run continuously to be justified. If
the annual volume is low then the product must be assembled manually.
- Number of parts – This dictates whether the product should be
assembled in a series of simple operations or in a single, complex
operation. Automatic indexing machines cannot be used for the assembly
of more than 8 parts on a single machine. The downtime caused by
defective parts rapidly increases for every part above this value.
Free-flow transfer should be used for products containing a large
number of parts.
The application of technology to the assembly environment has
sociological and psychological effects. The economic advantages of
certain assembly systems can produce serious social disadvantages.
These social effects are not limited to the confines of the factory and
they affect the whole of society.
Assembly line work can provide jobs for people challenged with limited
abilities. They can soon acquire a skill for a specific task and take
pride in doing a job that may seem uninteresting to other people.
Working with others on an assembly line often brings a worthwhile
feeling of cooperation in producing goods required by society. Some
people enjoy the fact that they can start a job and, with minimal
training, soon be earning a bonus on piece-rate assembly lines. A
highly specialised assembly task, requiring little dexterity, gives
this opportunity. The correct candidate can be selected for an assembly
line job by using aptitude and vocational tests. There is scope for job
rotation and managers can circulate workers so that they don’t have to
do the same operation for long periods. Job rotation also gives the
manager with a labour force able to do many operations. This is
beneficial to the company when there is a high rate of absenteeism. The
assembly line workers soon adopt a rhythm of working, as they do not
have to set aside one tool to pick up another.
Many assembly line workers don’t want to use mental effort and choose
not to accept responsibility in a job. They prefer to execute a task
that allows them to simultaneously talk with their colleagues and
listen to music. The workers are also able to take advantage of the
reduced selling price of goods assembled by the flow-line method,
available in high street stores. They can buy goods that would normally
be outside their budget, were it not for the division of labour. Low
priced home appliances like washing machines and vacuum cleaners reduce
the amount of time required to do work around the household. Homemakers
find that they are more available to work on an assembly line, earn
money and to gain companionship in a work environment.