Friday, 9 June 2006

Assembly Evolution (5/7)

- 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.

Social aspects

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.

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