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The Global Manufacturing Research Group (GMRG) project started as a result of a presentation at the Pan-Pacific Conference in Korea in 1985 of some survey research on executives in Korea by Professor Boo-Ho Rho of Sogang University in Seoul. This led to discussions with Professor D. Clay Whybark (then at Indiana University) about starting a joint research project to learn more about manufacturing management around the world. The decision was made to develop a common questionnaire focused principally on manufacturing planning and control practices and to survey firms in as many countries as possible.
Objectives of the project
An important objective of the project was to design a survey instrument that could be used around the world. This would make it possible to assess and compare manufacturing practices around the globe. The focus of the survey, therefore, was much more on practices than performance.
A second objective was to provide data to other researchers, since gathering such information is a costly task. Moreover, involving more people would improve the quality of the subsequent research. The initial agreement was that data would be available to researchers in countries that contributed data to the project. But, with the publication of the book Global Manufacturing Practices (Whybark and Vastag, 1993), the data are now publicly available.
Another objective of the project was to expand the number of countries involved. Therefore the questionnaire had to work in different cultures and economic systems. This meant surveying industries that are found everywhere, so an early decision was to restrict the survey to two industries: small machine tools (lathes, milling machines, drill presses, etc.) and non-fashion textiles (bed sheets, curtains, towels, etc.). These two industries provide batch processing and process industry examples. Expanding the number of countries was first done informally. In 1990 the GMRG was formed to provide a formal means for including new people, sharing ideas and exchanging insights.
Some details of the survey
The first surveys were done in Korea using interviews in individual companies with the help of the Korea Productivity Center. In the People's Republic of China, with the help of the Shanghai Institute of Mechanical Engineering, the firms' representatives were brought together in one place to fill out the questionnaire, discuss the questions, and address management concerns. In western Europe the International Institute for Management Development (IMD) helped conduct a mail survey with telephone follow-up, the same approach used in the USA. Other techniques have been used in other areas of the world.
The global manufacturing research group
The Global Manufacturing Research Group was formalized at the June 1990 Pan-Pacific Conference in Seoul, Korea (where it had started five years before). There was a manufacturing practices track at the conference where the researchers acquainted other people with the project. The basis of the early work of the group was the survey and resultant manufacturing practices database. The group usually holds an annual workshop in conjunction with an international conference. The workshops involve discussing research ideas and methods, presenting results and visiting factories, often those that participated in the survey.
The group is now using a revision of the questionnaire to gather data. It has the same objectives and the industries surveyed remain the same, but the instrument is considerably improved. Increasing the geographical scope of the project, involving new researchers and expanding the data from countries represented in the initial survey are still important. New activities of the group include using other forms of research, developing cases, and facilitating faculty and student exchanges.
There is no formal membership in the Global Manufacturing Research Group. People who are gathering data, analysing the data, attending the workshops, or providing other services and inputs to the organization, are members of the group. People get involved simply by doing something. The group does provide a means for sharing ideas on data gathering and analysis, even though it is informal. It is one way to continue to extend international collaboration and improve operations management capability in empirical research.
There is no single, specific theory, hypothesis, or process model behind the GMRG surveys. Instead, much of what is included was suggested because it is associated with one or more general operations management theories. These theories were not pulled together into a specific meta-theory for guiding the …