Subject：Principles of Operations Management
Question：Aldi has witnessed growth rates of 40% year on year since January 2012. This level of growth has raised a number of challenges for their Regional Distribution Centres (RDC – warehouses) and capacity levels. It has been noted that they no longer have enough capacity in the freezer component of their operations (this is a very large drive in freezer, not the sort of thing you see in the supermarket or at home). Using the academic literature as a basis, derive the general principles required to meet this challenge and then outline a solution specifically for their Neston Operations.
Aims of the Assignment
Explore academic literature (scholarly peer reviewed journal articles) as the evidential base for developing solutions to real world problems.
Explore the university databases as a source of academic literature.
Learn how to derive ‘general principles’ through analysis of the literature.
Provide a realistic solution for the capacity problems faced by Aldi through interpretation of the analysis of the academic literature (see below).
Act as a diagnostic for your academic skills. Does the feedback give you pointers regarding:
The data you have collected;
The level of analysis visible in the essay;
The structure of your essay.
The last aim is actually very important. Treating your assessments in the first two years of university as tests of your academic ability will provide pointers to those skills that need further work before the final year hits you. The responsibility for this development lies between both you and us. We provide the opportunities (lectures, seminars, assignments, study skills session) but you must take these opportunities. The more prepared you are for the final year the more smoothly it will go.
To produce an essay that discusses a relevant solution to the issue of capacity in the Aldi RDC (warehouse) under conditions of exponential growth.
No more than 2000 words. This will require you to demonstrate the succinct (compact) writing skills that are required in writing executive summaries in industry. The fairly small word-count means that you should cut out all the waffle (waste) and deliver carefully crafted words (value). This is a skill you must learn for business as well as academia.
There is a video available on VITAL that will provide some background and the perspective of ALDI operations staff. This is to give you a flavour of the issues they are facing and an appreciation of what authentic business issues that operations managers have to confront. There will also be a possibility of site visits to the ALDI Regional Distribution Centre to get a feeling for what an operational environment is all about. There will be a limited number of seats for these site visits, but they are not necessary for completion of the essay.
This assignment is about you deriving general principles of operations management and capacity management in warehouses in particular, and aligning them to the competitive principles of Aldi as a business.
Please do not contact any member of staff at ALDI with respect to this assessment. It is not necessary to successfully complete this assignment and would be against the ethical policies of the university. To be able to interact with humans in anyway regarding work through the University of Liverpool requires ethical clearance and without this clearance you will face disciplinary action that may include withdrawal from your programme of study.
Evidential Sources for your Essay
You have been shown how to search the academic literature and support is available from the Library. Remember this is about looking at the development of the concepts through the ‘academic literature’, so you must only use scholarly peer-reviewed journal articles (what we mean when we say ‘the academic literature’) to develop your arguments. Other sources may be used for illustrative purposes only, but they will not provide a basis for a good argument or a good grade. There are a number of reasons for this stipulation. An instrumental one is that you will be utilising scholarly peer-reviewed journal articles more and more throughout your university career, so it is time to start addressing this reality and encouraging you to engage with them. It is also important that you start learning how to use actual evidence to come to your decisions. In business you will be frequently asked to make a judgement/decision and it is important that you learn how to gather and use evidence in the process of making those decisions. This is not the case of looking for an author who says a particular thing you want to say, but that they prove the point they are making with empirical evidence. You will note that in textbooks and web articles that very rarely is empirical evidence produced to support the conclusions they proffer. Most scholarly peer-reviewed journal articles do provide this empirical support to the substantive points the author makes. These articles also go through a strict peer-review process that means the method, claims and conclusions have been assessed by experts in the area and deemed appropriate. In other assessments you will address the issue of this kind of assessment of the academic literature, but here I want you to focus on developing your analytic skills. By specifying ‘the academic literature’ I am freeing you from the concerns of assessing how appropriate the data source is so that you can concentrate on the analysis of the literature as a body of work. Laura’s assignment will be tackling this aspect of critical thinking allowing you to leverage your own experience to examine the utility of a methodology.
Collect, Analyse, Interpret, Communicate
University programmes and their content are governed by an organisation called the Quality Assurance Agency for Higher Education (QAA) through the publication of bench marking statements for each area of study. It is the meeting of these bench marking statements that decides if you achieve the qualification of degree with honours. In the business and management bench marking statement it includes this in the relevant skills section:
“Problem solving and critical analysis: analysing facts and circumstances to determine the cause of a problem and identifying and selecting appropriate solutions.
Research: the ability to analyse and evaluate a range of business data, sources of information and appropriate methodologies, which includes the need for strong digital literacy, and to use that research for evidence-based decision-making. ” (QAA 2015)
As you can see from this briefing, this form of assessment addresses these sections of the QAA bench marking statement and is the start of your professional development helping you fulfil an important criteria of an honours graduate. As the years progress you will have more and more opportunities to further develop this side of your professional skills.
To meet this requirement you must seek to develop a critical analysis of the concepts you are examining, and not simply describe the reading you are doing. If you are unsure of what critical analysis/thinking is then refer to the resources posted on VITAL under the Critical Thinking folder, or arrange to attend one of the many sessions run by the Management School’s study support officer Chris Twentyman. Please ensure you attend the seminar sessions where an exploration of how to address an assignment will be performed. This assignment is a full exploration of the Collect, Analyse, Interpret, Communicate paradigm.
In the workplace you will rarely write an essay as a form of communication (much communication will be through e-mails, presentations, team meetings and reports), but an essay contains important lessons in structuring your communication whatever the specifics of the format. More importantly, what you will often need to do in the workplace is collect some form of data, analyse that data (it is rarely in the form you need to develop an answer), interpret the findings from the analysis to provide recommendations or decisions for your organisation. This assignment is therefore an important learning tool for you in your first year to see how well you are grasping these aspects of academic/employability skills.
What you have been Told and What you haven’t been told.
The idea of ‘principles’ will be introduced and developed in the lectures.
Some operations techniques will be introduced in the lectures.
Not all of the techniques pertinent to this assignment will be discussed in class, you will need to go and find them in the academic literature.
You will be shown the Discover search engine interface for the library databases to help find the relevant articles.
Other than 4 starter articles you will not be told which articles to use for your essay. You will need to find more through your own effort.
The journal articles you collect will not explicitly state the principles underlining the techniques discussed within – you will need to derive these through an analytic process.
You will not be told the competitive principles for Aldi, you will need to discover/derive these through analysis of the academic literature.
You will be shown an analytic approach to this problem – but it is only a suggestion not a requirement. You may have your own method for developing an analysis and if you feel comfortable with that please use it. However, if it doesn’t achieve what you desired in terms of grade then you may need to rethink your analytic strategy in the future.
The general elements of essay structure will be discussed.
You will not be given a plan for the essay nor will you be told specifically how to structure the answer for this essay. You need to make those choices and then assess how well you did against the feedback.
This section is here to show you what aspects of the assignment will be addressed in class and what aspects of the assignment won’t be addressed requiring you to work it out. The QAA states that
“On graduating with an honours degree in business and management, students will typically:
be distinguished from the threshold category by their enhanced capacity to develop and apply their own perspectives to their studies, to deal with uncertainty and complexity, to explore alternative solutions, to demonstrate critical evaluation and to integrate theory and practice in a wide range of situations.
have a view of business and management which is influenced by a wide range of learning sources, based on a proactive and independent approach to learning “ (QAA 2015)
This assessment is therefore introducing these aspects of your development, what we often describe as independent learning and independence of thought. Once you receive your feedback think about what you may need to do to achieve this aim by the time you reach the final year.
Follow the marking guidelines provided in the Management School Student Handbook
Essay Checklist for Self Evaluation
Use the simple checklist below to gauge how you are performing in your essay.
I am clear on my position on this subject and the reasons for my view point
My introduction sets the context for the essay.
My introduction defines the structure of the essay.
My conclusion is clear, based on the evidence.
My conclusion is written in a tentative language where appropriate.
The material included is the most relevant to the subject.
All sections of the essay are relevant to the exact specification of the task.
I have analysed the structure of my argument and the reasoning is presented in the best order and lead clearly towards the conclusion.
My facts are accurate.
I have included references to relevant theories from within the academic literature.
I make use of other peoples research as supporting evidence to strengthen my argument.
I have cited the source of information and theories to which I refer in the Harvard style.
Each of my paragraphs contain a single idea.
Each of my paragraphs start with a strong topic sentence expounding the analytic point the paragraph is making rather than making a descriptive point.
Each of my paragraphs expands on the idea with relevant evidence.
My writing is mainly analytical and contains only brief, essential descriptive writing.
I have given clear indications of levels of probability or uncertainty.
My current beliefs are not unfairly distorting my argument.
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