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From time to time, the industrial world has witnessed the emergence of technologies and managerial philosophies due to increased competition. Particularly, this trend has been phenomenal over the last 20 years. A literature overview of manufacturing status covering this period indicates that there has been an upsurge in the emanation of various concepts and philosophies since the 1980s. Out of them all, the most noticeable philosophy that still dominates the manufacturing systems is total quality management (TQM). Though plenty of models, methods and techniques have been brought out to effect TQM, the manufacturers seem to have gained very little benefit. A critical analysis of interview and questionnaire responses from executives and various managerial cadres in the manufacturing arena indicated that the quality programmes initiated as part of TQM programmes were found to affect productivity to a great extent. Also, the retardation in productivity improvement was found to be a major cause in declining interest among the manufacturing community in carrying out quality improvement programmes. However, very little work in integrating productivity with quality improvement frameworks has been carried out during the recent years. This realization made it imperative to carry out research on productivity management, with the major objective of designing a model that could be integrated with a quality management model that has received acceptance from the manufacturing community. This article illustrates the first phase of research work, which consisted of an exploratory work on the adoption of concepts of strategic management and strategic quality management (SQM), to design a model called "strategic productivity management" (SPM). After reviewing briefly the status of productivity management in literature and manufacturing companies, this article proceeds to the design of the SPM model. A case study is briefly reported, to describe the efforts that are being made to implement the proposed model. Though the implementation progress is at a very primitive stage, it helps to reveal the features of implementation feasibilities. In its conclusion the article appraises the tangible and intangible benefits of implementing the proposed SPM model and explores the future direction of research work.
Productivity studies in the literature
Though productivity would have been man's concern as soon as he became a manufacturer, its very formal presentation was noticed in the literature only in the year 1766. Thereafter a lot of work emerged in this area with various definitions and concepts. During the early 1900s various models to improve productivity in complex industrial enterprises were brought out. A comprehensive literature survey on productivity studies in manufacturing systems over the last 20 years revealed two main aspects:
(1) the work on productivity in the initial days was biased towards only its improvement and, later, slowly it shifted to its management;
(2) its reception among the manufacturing community was moderate during the early days (1970s).
However, when the TQM movement gained momentum from the early 1980s, productivity concepts were pushed to the background. This resulted in the declining trend of productivity literature over the years. As indicated in Table I, from the 1980s the frequency of articles appearing in journals was reduced by a very insignificant extent.
Meanwhile, during the mid-1980s, attempts were made to implement TQM concepts either as a whole or in part (like initiating quality circle programmes). However, during the late 1980s and early 1990s sceptical observations emerged over the real benefits of TQM. Particularly, a variety of articles such as Juran, Dale and Lightburn and Noci dealing with the failures of quality improvement projects appeared. More recently, Garvin has claimed that the failure of TQM projects are reported to an extent of 70 per cent. At the outset, a literature review has indicated a disproportionate growth of quality and productivity studies, which has resulted in insignificant improvement in overall manufacturing systems management.
Table I. Literature survey on productivity (manufacturing/production areas) Total number of Articles on Percentage of articles Years articles surveyed productivity on productivity 1975 158 105 66.5 1976 167 107 64.1 1977 171 112 65.5 1978 172 111 64.53 1979 176 116 65.9 1980 174 109 62.64 1981 173 97 56.1 1982 178 85 47.75 1983 182 78 42.86 1984 179 59 32.96 1985 176 46 26.14 1986 177 34 19.2 1987 177 33 18.64 1988 192 19 9.89 1989 202 17 8.41 1990 228 17 7.46 1991 240 22 9.17 1992 270 30 11.11 1993 342 …