Emerald Group Publishing Limited
Copyright © 2011, Emerald Group Publishing Limited
Article Type: Editorial From: Journal of Manufacturing Technology Management, Volume 22, Issue 3
I frequently attend academic conferences and most of these are in the area of operations management or technology management. Therefore, it is not surprising that papers relating to manufacturing feature quite prominently in the proceedings. Even in the conferences on supply chain management and logistics management, which I also attend occasionally, manufacturing is usually well-represented, although service industries, especially wholesaling and retailing, have become an important feature more recently.
It is less often that I attend general management conferences such as the Academy of Management in the USA and the British Academy of Management. However, during a recent visit to Adelaide I did have the opportunity of attending the annual conference of the Australia and New Zealand Academy of Management (ANZAM) where more than 270 papers were presented in 17 tracks that went across a very wide range of disciplines. Of these tracks the most relevant to manufacturing was technology, innovation and supply chain management, which had 22 papers, more than the average number per track. On closer examination of the proceedings not many of these gave much consideration to manufacturing, although in several other streams it did sometimes feature.
This gave me the idea to search the ANZAM proceedings as a whole for any occurrences of the words “manufacturing”, “manufacture”, “manufacturer”, “manufactured goods”, etc., in the PDF files of the papers. To my surprise around 80 papers were in the list; but was this really an indication of the prominence given to manufacturing in the conference? When I looked more closely it was certainly not so. Among all these, only around 20 had the word mentioned more than once or twice and it certainly did not represent the main thrust of the paper.
But the really strange thing was that around 20 more of these papers had the word “manufacturing”, etc., in the reference list and nowhere else. This shows the very strong influence that manufacturing management has had on the subject of management as a whole. Papers that have little or no reference to manufacturing in their subject matter still draw on the manufacturing literature for their theoretical and empirical support.
Maybe manufacturing has gone out of fashion with management academics but it is still alive in the work they draw upon. Manufacturing may have waned as activity in our industrial economies but it will be a very long while before it disappears from the management literature.