A transformation process is any activity or group of activities that takes one or more inputs, transforms and adds value to them, and provides outputs for customers or clients. Where the inputs are raw materials, it is relatively easy to identify the transformation involved, as when milk is transformed into cheese and butter. Where the inputs are information or people, the nature of the transformation may be less obvious.
Transformation processes include:
• changes in the physical characteristics of materials or customers
• changes in the location of materials, information or customers
• changes in the ownership of materials or information
• changes in the purpose or form of information
• changes in the physiological or psychological state of customers.
Often all three types of input - materials, information and customers - are transformed by the same organisation. For example, treating a patient in hospital involves not only the ‘customer's’ state of health, but also any materials used in treatment and information about the patient.
One useful way of categorising different types of transformation is into:
• manufacture - the physical creation of products (for example cars)
• transport - the movement of materials or customers (for example a taxi service)
• supply - change in ownership of goods (for example in retailing)
• service - the treatment of customers or the storage of materials (for example hospital wards, warehouses).
Several different transformations are usually required to produce a good or service. The overall transformation can be described as the macro operation, and the more detailed transformations within this macro operation as micro operations.
The macro operation in a brewery is making beer (see graphic above). The micro operations include:
• milling the malted barley into grist
• mixing the grist with hot water to form wort
• cooling the wort and transferring it to the fermentation vessel
• adding yeast to the wort and fermenting the liquid into beer
• filtering the beer to remove the spent yeast
• decanting the beer into casks or bottles.
A further component of the transformation model is the feedback loop. Feedback information is used to control the operations system, by adjusting the inputs and transformation processes that are used to achieve desired outputs.
Feedback is essential for operations managers. It can come from both internal and external sources. Internal sources include testing, evaluation and continuously improving goods and services; external sources include those who supply products or services to end-customers as well as feedback from customers themselves.