Case analysis at NZQA level 7 requires that the student integrate knowledge of both operations management and business practices. It       is imperative that each case demonstrate the students’ ability to     incorporate both strategies and tactics from the basic decision     areas of operations, and correctly apply them to the facts of the      case being analysed.

The   10 principal areas of operations are:



Human     resources and job design

Process     and capacity planning

Service      and product design

Quality      management

Supply      Chain Management

Inventory, material requirements planning and Just In Time

Short        and intermediate term project management and scheduling

Maintenance     management

It is understood that not all areas will be applicable to each case.

Case analysis will address the following basic questions:







How much?

3.  Preparing a Written Case Analysis:

Preparing a written case analysis is much like preparing a case for class discussion, except that your analysis must be more complete and put in report form. Unfortunately, there is no iron clad procedure for doing a written case analysis. All that can be offered are some general guidelines and words of wisdom. This is because company situations and management problems are so diverse that no one mechanical way to approach a written case assignment always works.

You are asked to do a comprehensive written case analysis, where the expectation is that you will:

(1) Identify all the pertinent issues that management needs to address,

(2) Perform whatever analysis and evaluation is appropriate, and

(3) Propose an action plan and set of recommendations addressing the issues you have identified.

In going through the exercise to identify, evaluate, and recommend, keep the following pointers in mind. For some additional ideas and viewpoints, you may wish to consult Thomas J. Raymond, “Written Analysis of Cases,” in The Case Method at the Harvard Business School, ed. M. P. McNair, pp. 13963. Raymond’s article includes an actual case, a sample analysis of the case, and a sample of a student’s written report on the case.


It is essential early on in your paper that you provide a sharply focused diagnosis of strategic issues and key problems and that you demonstrate a good grasp of the company’s present situation. Make sure you can identify the firm’s strategy. Consider beginning your paper with an overview of the company’s situation, its strategy, and the significant problems and issues that confront management. State problems/issues as clearly and precisely as you can. Unless it is necessary to do so for emphasis, avoid recounting facts and history about the company (assume your lecturer has read the case and is familiar with the organization).

Analysis and Evaluation

This is usually the hardest part of the report. Analysis is hard work! Check out the firm’s financial ratios, its profit margins and rates of return, and its capital structure, and decide how strong the firm is financially. Similarly, look at marketing, production, managerial competence, and other factors underlying the organization’s strategic successes and failures. Decide whether the firm has valuable resource strengths and competencies and, if so, whether it is capitalizing on them.

Check to see if the firm’s strategy is producing satisfactory results and determine the reasons why or why not. Probe the nature and strength of the competitive forces confronting the company. Decide whether and why the firm’s competitive position is getting stronger or weaker. Use the tools and concepts you have learned about to perform whatever analysis and evaluation is appropriate.

In writing your analysis and evaluation, bear in mind four things:

a. You are obliged to offer analysis and evidence to back up your conclusions. Do not rely on unsupported opinions, over-generalizations, and platitudes as a substitute for tight, logical argument backed up with facts and figures.

b. If your analysis involves some important quantitative calculations, use tables and charts to present the calculations clearly and efficiently. Do not just tack the exhibits on at the end of your assignment and let the reader figure out what they mean and why they were included. Instead, in the body of your report cite some of the key numbers, highlight the conclusions to be drawn from the exhibits, and refer the reader to your charts and exhibits for more details.

c. Demonstrate that you have command of the strategic concepts and analytical tools to which you were presented in your Operations Management courses.. Use them in your report.

d. Your interpretation of the evidence should be reasonable and objective. Be wary of preparing a one-sided argument that omits all aspects not favourable to your conclusions. Likewise, try not to exaggerate or over dramatize. Endeavour to inject balance into your analysis and to avoid emotional rhetoric. Strike phrases such as “I think,” “I feel,” and “I believe” when you edit your first draft and write in “My analysis shows,” instead.


The final section of the written case analysis should consist of a set of definite recommendations and a plan of action. Your set of recommendations should address all of the problems/issues you identified and analyzed. If the recommendations come as a surprise or do not follow logically from the analysis, the effect is to weaken greatly your suggestions of what to do. Obviously, your recommendations for actions should offer a reasonable prospect of success. High-risk, bet-the-company recommendations should be made with caution. State how your recommendations will solve the problems you have identified. Be sure the company is financially able to carry out what you recommend; also check to see if your recommendations are workable in terms of acceptance by the persons involved, the organisation’s competence to implement them, and prevailing market and environmental constraints. Try not to hedge or weasel on the actions you believe should be taken.

By all means state your recommendations in sufficient detail to be meaningful and get down to some definite nitty-gritty specifics. Avoid such unhelpful statements as “the organization should do more planning” or “the company should be more aggressive in marketing its product.” For instance, do not simply say “the firm should improve its market position” but state exactly how you think this should be done. Offer a definite agenda for action, stipulating a timetable and sequence for initiating actions, indicating priorities, and suggesting who should be responsible for doing what, and by when.

In proposing an action plan, remember there is a great deal of difference between, on the one hand, being responsible for a decision that may be costly if it proves in error and, on the other hand, casually suggesting courses of action that might be taken when you do not have to bear the responsibility for any of the consequences. A good rule to follow in making your recommendations is: avoid recommending anything you would not yourself be willing to do if you were in management’s shoes. The importance of learning to develop good judgment in a managerial situation is indicated by the fact that, even though the same information and operating data may be available to every manager or executive in an organisation, the quality of the judgments about what the information means and which actions need to be taken does vary from person to person.

It goes without saying that your report should be well organized and well written. Great ideas amount to little unless others can be convinced of their merit.  This takes tight logic, the presentation of convincing evidence, and persuasively written arguments.

It is vital for this paper that the student differentiates between simple descriptive material which was appropriate at NZQA level 5, and in-depth analysis which is required at level 7.

a.      The case must incorporate significant breadth and depth to provide     the level of detail appropriate for final year degree students.

b. Breadth of the analysis is addressed by means of a complete answer to the what, how, how much, and when questions, and by identification of all the important issues contained in the case.

c. Depth of the analysis is addressed by asking “why” this issue is of concern, and by asking “how” did the situation come about, and “how” can the situation be improved?


The following is a guideline for the John Crane UK Ltd. (Upton, page 171) case. It is presented as an example only.


The introductory paragraph provides the reader with the historical perspective, and sets the stage for issues to be analysed and discussed in subsequent sections of the case study.

John Crane UK Ltd (Crane) produces mechanical seals. From 1981 to 1990 Crane embarked on a series of measures aimed at improving its manufacturing operations. From a jumbled job-shop with very high inventory levels and poor responsiveness, emerged a lean, flexible operation which is able to produce small batches with short lead times. A key element of the series of measures taken was the adoption of the manufacturing cell and CNC machines. Each of these required greatly an increased level of expertise and autonomy from the machine operators. The operators’ new found autonomy had allowed them to learn how to program these machines. Crane attributed its dramatically improved performance to “the people on the floor.” Computerisation had also improved Crane’s engineering department, and a CAD system had successfully been introduced.

While these changes were occurring in manufacturing at a lower level, Crane had been developing a CIM strategy from the top of the organisation. Amongst other things this would link the Computer Aided Design system to the production machines in an automatic way (a CAD-CAM link) obviating manual programming and greatly reducing the autonomy of the shop floor operators. Gibbon, the Operations Director, faces a dilemma. Taking the autonomy away from the operators undermines the original basis for manufacturing improvement at Crane, while blocking the CAD-CAM link inhibits the CIM vision that is becoming increasingly imperative as Crane shifts its competitive strategy.


The case analysis speaks to all the issues identified.  It provides the reader with reasons and an explanation of identified issues, and should speak to ways of ameliorating the situation.  The analysis demonstrates principles of operations management (quality, scheduling, inventory, layout, process design, product design, etc ) are understood, evaluated, integrated, and correctly applied to the facts of the case being analysed. The analysis makes good business sense in the context of the case.

Analysis of this case begins with the state of play of the operations in 1981. A thorough and comprehensive case analysis will address these points for the Crane case. It is not necessary to write pages on each point, but to identify for the reader that an understanding of the concepts, and the relationships that exist, is necessary.  As the analysis is progressively developed, a clear understanding of points similar to the examples below is demonstrated.

In the Crane case the following are examples of prominent issues that can be spoken to:

Crane        is a job-shop, and this fact has an impact on how the business was,         and must be operated.

The   Make to Order and Make to Stock product variation tends to         complicate their operation due to the high product variety, and         significant mix in job volumes. Some jobs have volumes in the         thousands, while 65% of their output is 10 pieces or less. This      variation in product mix and volume is the prime cause of the    “floating” bottleneck observed.

The   physical layout used compounds the problems inherent in a job-shop i.e. that of material flow and shop floor scheduling.

The   reason bottlenecks appear in different process areas at various    times is in part due to the variation in job volumes, and in part to     the scheduling system as “rush” jobs were breaking up long batch      runs. This also created unnecessary delays due to the long set-up times encountered in the Reading shop.

The   reason for the incredible amount of work in process inventory     located on the plant floor is directly related to measuring operator performance through machine utilisation.  Work was stacked in front       of most machines so that it could be kept busy “just in case” a particular job could not continue to be run.

Gibbons    ran the simulation to emulate how the plant was operating. He         learned, or confirmed, from the simulation exercise that additional       WIP resulted in diminishing returns in terms of output rate. The results show that Crane was a long way over saturation on the shop       floor. The output of the Reading shop was 300,000 components a year    (1200 a day @ 250 days per year). There was an average lead-time of     a little over 3 months (95 days x 1200 = 114,000 components). Making        allowance for factory order issue time still leaves 90,000 to   100,000 components on the shop floor!

To    improve the production process and provide higher levels of         throughput with the same or lower quantities of WIP, Crane changed         their process to include Group Technology and manufacturing cells.         Manufacturing cells provided improved visibility of work, and the         entire process was improved. Transport time and costs are reduced.     The advantages of specialisation are incorporated, and resulted in      improvement in moral of the staff.

Changes    introduced by Gibbon provided a higher output rate for a given level         of WIP due to reduction of the need to have work lie around the shop         floor “just in case”; reduction in total set-up time, coupled   with increased output due to the improved capacity of the CNC         machines.

While        the work cells provided improvement driven from the bottom up, the         CIM initiative was driven from the top down. CIM would provide Crane         with:

Standardisation of product and production process

Reduction of  duplication of effort between the operators and the production         engineers

Speed       and accuracy of information transfer

Design      engineers were a key resource for Crane, as their product variety and new product development demonstrated.

CIM would allow Crane to bring more work in-house through increased         capacity. In addition the bottleneck requirement for programming the         CNC machines, either by the operators on the shop floor, or by         production engineering, could be eliminated or dramatically reduced.         Crane has a clear issue in determining what is to be done and who is    to do it.

The   case sets up a tacit decision between Production Engineers operating the automatic programme generator they have written and the Operators doing manual programming at the machines. Gibbon’s choice       is to remove the autonomy that the Operators had developed and        reduce them to “pushing buttons” with the potential loss in moral, or potentially inhibit capacity by allowing the Operators       to continue to perform programming that would be more skilfully     performed by the Production Engineers.

A      potential solution is to put the CAD-CAM screens on the shop floor,     and let the Operators do the job that the Production Engineers were going to do, which is monitor and suggest improvements to the     CAD-CAM production link. This will keep the Operators involved in        the process, while it would prevent them from using the accumulated programming skills they had developed. The Operators could make        suggestions for improving the part programme generator due to their     experience with the process. In addition it would free the   Production Engineers to fine tune the CAD-CAM link, which requires a high level of technical competence and programming skill. This has         the potential result of continued high moral with insignificant loss        in capacity or increased set-up times.


The case report should be in technical report format. It should be written in a crisp style, and should include a title page; section and paragraph numbers, page numbering, and must be properly referenced.

Provide A REFERENCE LIST with the report, as differentiated from a Bibliography. The reference list includes only those sources actually referred to in the report, and must not include any sources NOT specifically referenced in the report.

A Bibliography includes sources read during the research of a report, but are NOT specifically referred to in the report body.