The purpose of this paper is to explore the importance of physical proximity between schedulers and operators within manufacturing firms. In literature, a small distance between interdependent employees is assumed to be a prerequisite for a high level of coordination. This study investigates this assumption empirically for the relationship between scheduling and manufacturing and shows effects of proximity that are only partly in line with literature.
Consequences of relocating the scheduling department within a production firm are studied using a longitudinal case study approach. Data have been collected within three phases: before, three months after, and one year after the relocation.
Findings show that schedulers and operators communicate more face‐to‐face and less by phone after the relocation, especially during rescheduling. Furthermore, schedulers and operators perceived positive changes in ease of coordination and performance due to the relocation.
Scheduling and rescheduling are usually treated in literature as a mathematical puzzle to be solved. The authors do not contest this in itself, but the findings indicate that communication and collaboration are important aspects as well. In the case company, the possible negative aspects of close proximity, such as more interruptions, are offset by the advantages for rescheduling such as fast response and improved quality of communication. As the study was done in only one manufacturing firm, further research is needed to determine what firm characteristics specifically determine the appropriate location of the scheduling department.
The paper demonstrates the need to carefully design, manage, and facilitate the interface and critical task interdependencies between scheduling and manufacturing departments.
The paper contributes to operations management literature by providing a detailed empirical analysis concerning the effects of physical proximity between schedulers and manufacturing operators, including behavioural and organizational factors.
De Snoo, C., Van Wezel, W. and Wortmann, J.C. (2011), "Does location matter for a scheduling department? A longitudinal case study on the effects of relocating the schedulers", International Journal of Operations & Production Management, Vol. 31 No. 12, pp. 1332-1358. https://doi.org/10.1108/01443571111187475
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