Assignment: Hightone Electronics, Inc. Case Study
The case studies in your course text Operations Management: An Integrated Approach offer glimpses into the real world of business operations, allowing for deeper analysis of issues related to operations management, budgeting, and business strategy.
Read the case “Hightone Electronics, Inc.,” which begins on page 24 of your text. Then respond to case questions 1 and 2 on page 25.
Case: Hightone Electronics, Inc.
George Gonzales, operations director of Hightone Electronics, Inc. (HEI), sat quietly at the conference table overlooking the lobby of the corporate head-quarters office in Palo Alto, California. He reflected on the board meeting that had just adjourned and the challenge that lay ahead for him. The board had just announced their decision to start an Internet-based division of HEI. Web-based purchasing in the electronics industry had been growing rapidly. The board felt that HEI needed to offer on-line purchasing to its customers in order to maintain its competitive position. The board looked to George to outline the key operations management decisions that needed to be addressed in creating a successful Internet-based business. The next board meeting was just a week away. He had his work cut out for him.
Hightone Electronics, Inc. was founded in Palo Alto, California over 50 years ago. Originally, the company provided radio components to small repair shops. Products were offered for sale through a catalog that was mailed to prospective customers every four months. The company built its reputation on high quality and service. As time passed, HEI began supplying more than just radio parts, adding items such as fuses, transformers, computers, and electrical testing equipment. The expansion of the product line had been coupled with an increase in the number and type of customers the company served. Although the traditional repair shops still remained a part of the company’s market, technical schools, universities, and well-known corporations in the Silicon Valley were added to the list of customers.
Today HEI operates the Palo Alto facility with the same dedication to supplying quality products through catalog sales that it had when it was first founded. Customer service remains the top priority. HEI stocks and sells over 22,000 different items. Most customers receive their orders within 48 hours, and all components are warranted for a full year.
Expanding HEI to include Web-based purchasing seems to be a natural extension of catalog sales that the company already does successfully. George Gonzales agrees that the company has no choice but to move in this competitive direction. However, George does not agree with the opinion of the board that this would be “business as usual.” He believes that there are many operations decisions that need to be identified and addressed. As he stated in the meeting, “Having a slick Web site is one thing, but making sure the right product is delivered to the right location is another. Operations is the key to making this happen.” His challenge for the next board meeting was to identify the key operations decisions and persuade the board that these issues needed serious consideration.
Case Questions

Explain why operations management is critical to the success of a business. Why would developing an Internet-based business require different operations considerations for HEI? Is George Gonzales correct in his assessment that this would not be “business as usual”?
Recall that HEI wishes to continue its reputation of high quality and service. Identify key operations management decisions that need to be considered. How different will these decisions be for the Internet business?

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