Qualitative Research of Manufacturing Processes


Qualitative research is based on collecting opinions and feedback regarding someone’s experience and self-evaluation in a particular field. It helps to identify strengths and weaknesses within a company. Although qualitative research is sometimes perceived as inaccurate due to the lack of mathematical formulas that would assess the level of coincidence, its results are often used to collect a valuable insight of professionals that have ideas to share about improvements that could be made to a process. These results help managers to make decisions regarding the future strategy, which is especially important in the field of facilities maintenance where each mistake could lead to a failure of the whole manufacturing process.

Methods and Tools

The primary method in qualitative research would include collecting primary and secondary data. Secondary data includes literature reviews. Various books and scholarly articles could be used to collect and analyze information that is applicable to facilities maintenance field. Primary data usually includes interviews with people working directly at a facility. Some of the most important characteristics of qualitative analysis tools include the accuracy degree, the resources, the requirements, etc. (Crowther & Lancaster, 2008, p. 179). Different sampling methods are used for those interviews to ensure the population is relevant to the topic.

The judgment sampling technique that is based on selecting people that are most suitable for the study would work best for this type of research. It is important to note that not only heads of facility departments should be interviewed. Although they usually see a bigger picture of a process, other workers could offer specific details that should be improved. For instance, a head of a packing line may state that the process needs to be faster to meet the company goal, while a low-level employee can mention that long working hours affect this time.

Effectiveness

Qualitative research is very effective in identifying problems that employees encounter in their environment. For instance, quantitative research usually focuses on the outcomes of each process by measuring the number of products manufactured or the amount and consistency of injuries received, while qualitative methods help to evaluate if there are any elements that distract employees from their duties. Tools like the Strategic Assessment Model (SAM) usually combine quantitative data with the qualitative results to obtain a perspective on the overall performance of workers (Committee on the Renewel of Department of Energy Infrastructure et al., 2004, p. 51).

Nevertheless, a qualitative method has some adverse sides that influence the accuracy of outcomes. For instance, it fully relies on the answers of interviewees, and the level of reliability of such data is questionable. Employees might seek for certain benefits that could come as a result of such study. Some industries or jobs are demanding by default, and the high level of stress appears to be inevitable in such cases. While workers can mention such factors, it should not be the primary contribution to the overall understanding of the whole situation.

Company Example

One of the companies that decided to use a qualitative research in its practice was the Heathrow airport in London (Heathrow, n. d.). At some point of its work, the airport’s management team decided to check how certain initiatives applied to facilities maintenance could reduce the costs spent annually on it. The qualitative research identified that the company should use the proactive approach rather than reactive to fix any issues with appliances.

Moreover, investment in training and technology showed a positive effect on this field. Maintenance employees were able to identify the most common technical problems of the airport’s facilities that could be predicted beforehand and costs could be reduced at that point.

Future of Qualitative Research

Qualitative research helps to compare data that is too different to be put within the structured form of mathematical functions. This type of collecting and analyzing data will be used in the future because it allows to operate with information that is rather variable and that can offer an unexpected view on a studied issue. The problem of the low accuracy can be solved by adding a quantitative research method to an overall study. Most fields that deal with human resources should use qualitative research to assess the level of engagement of employees, their satisfaction with a process, as well as their performance and expectations.

People are the most valuable resource in every business, and their feedback is important. Machines cannot provide such valuable information, limiting their results to the numerical assessment of line performance. The field of facilities maintenance deals with a lot of technical information, yet employees can contribute to the improvement of each process through qualitative studies in the future.

Conclusion

Qualitative research proves to be useful in different fields of industry, particularly in facilities maintenance. The experience of employees contributed in the form of answers to interviews as a part of a qualitative study work towards cutting costs of processes. The future of qualitative research looks bright since machines are not able to provide imaginative answers that would identify deeper problems or offer an unexpected solution.

References

Committee on the Renewel of Department of Energy Infrastructure, Board on Infrastructure and the Constructed Environment, & Division on Engineering and Physical Sciences. (2004). Intelligent sustainment and renewal of Department of energy facilities and infrastructure. Washington, D. C.: National Academics Press. Web.

Crowther, D., & Lancaster, G. (2008). Research methods. Oxford, UK: Elsevier.

Heathrow. (n. d.). Our history. Web.