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Workload control: Successful implementation taking a contingency-based view of production planning and control

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Purpose ‐ The purpose of this paper is to present a successful implementation of a comprehensive workload control (WLC) concept; and to describe the associated implementation process. Design/methodology/approach ‐ Longitudinal action research using a contingency-based approach to ensure alignment between the case company and the characteristics of the WLC approach; and the resulting expected improvements in performance. A set of 17 issues and responses from the literature is used as a checklist for implementing WLC. Findings ‐ Performance improvements include: reduced lead times; significant improvement in lateness and tardiness; reduced costs; improved internal and external co-ordination; and higher quality. The relevance of 15 of the 17 implementation issues is confirmed along with the same response as in previous research for ten issues and an improved response for five issues. In addition, three new issues are identified and addressed. Research limitations/implications ‐ Dependability was a more important competitive priority in this company than speed; and, therefore, the ability of WLC to reduce lead times was not fully assessed. Practical implications ‐ The importance of a contingency-based approach to production planning and control is confirmed. Comprehensive WLC approaches are closely aligned with the high-variety/low-volume context of make-to-order (MTO) companies. Originality/value ‐ This is the first paper that empirically demonstrates performance improvements resulting from WLC alongside a detailed discussion of the implementation process. Few examples of successful implementations have been published previously, and these tend to treat the implementation process as a "black box". Where more detail on the implementation process has been given in previous studies, evidence of effectiveness in practice was not provided.
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Keywords: Action research; Implementation strategy; Make-to-order; Performance management; Production planning and control; Workload control

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: January 4, 2013

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