In the modern world, where people’s existence has become increasingly digitized, the reliance on the screens to perform anything daily has become nearly a given for all except the youngest and the eldest groups of people. Touchscreens are used in everything, from smartphones to medical equipment; thus, the ability to comfortably navigate the digital interface depends directly on the screen’s responsiveness. However, there are many challenges in operating digital devices for elderly people: age-induced impairments in sight and hearing, tremors, and a lack of the so-called ‘intuitive’ understanding of the mechanisms are among the most known. However, another notorious issue that people of older age may experience is the touchscreen – to be exact, its unreliable responsiveness. While research on the matter is limited, it may be the case that due to skin drying with age, the fingertips of the elderly citizens do not transmit the necessary electric current as well, causing the problem with the ‘touch’ aspect. As a result, the elderly community becomes the target customer group. Furthermore, these issues may affect people with skin of different dryness or temperature due to underlying medical conditions. Therefore, the proposed product for this research is the more inclusive touchscreen display, which could be suitable for operation by all. It should be considered that a display never operates outside of the device it is attached to – however, describing the process of creating an entire smartphone would exceed the scope of this review. This operation management plan reviews the technological aspects and presents an outline of the steps that would be required to execute the accessible touchscreen proposal. Ultimately, the technological advances in this sphere are becoming more of a need with each decade, as both the proportion of older people in the community and the population’s reliance on gadgets increase.
Operation Management Plan
Operational Performance Objectives
To tune an operation, organisations require a well-defined set of performance objectives. Five performance objectives apply to all operations: quality, speed, dependability, flexibility, and cost. In this case, dependability and quality are emphasized the most compared to other objectives. Each of these facets has specific implications, whether internal or external (usually matched); moreover, each one has several internal effects, and, lastly, all of them affect the cost of operating. The cost of operating in this plan is driven by the need to meet high technical standards and deliver a superior quality product.
The company may take several approaches to product development in designing a new product. The first stage of the inclusive touchscreen design would be to source the ideas and create the emergent concept (Heizer, Render & Munson 2020, p. 200). The information sources for the idea would be secondary literature that reviews the issues that the elderly commonly experience with the loss of response from the device due to drier skin (Petrie & Darzentas 2017, p. 89). In other words, what the customers want in this case is to avoid the loss of response from the screen and have a reliable connection each time. Therefore, the new touchscreen concept would be centred around higher responsiveness to counteract the challenge. Additionally, it would be vital to balance the extra sensitivity with the ability of the gadget to discriminate between a purposeful and an accidental touch.
However, the ideation process should be backed by observations of its viability. Thus, the next stage is to evaluate feasibility by investigating whether increasing sensitivity from the firm’s current’ standard’ may carry out (Heizer, Render & Munson 2020, p. 200). The interaction between the screen and the human skin hinges on electricity transmission during the contact between the display surface (with a coating of conductive material) and the fingertip (Ayyildiz et al. 2018, p. 12668). At that moment, a localised change in the electrical current creates a ‘touch’ signal that is then processed by the gadget (Ayyildiz et al. 2018, p. 12668). It is feasible to utilize some of the extant manufacturing methods for the new design. For instance, the screen itself may not even have to be drastically reworked: Ayyildiz et al. argue for improving the finger-touchscreen interaction by increasing conductivity through a thinner layer of conductive materials (2018, p. 12672). Therefore, the idea is feasible in terms of technological abilities, but the team should test several concepts to determine which one is the finest.
After the concept and its feasibility have been evaluated, the product development team will take the next several steps. Some of them are also finely regulated by the design and engineering crew. Firstly, it should evaluate the customer requirements for this product (Heizer, Render & Munson 2020, p. 200). Generally, touchscreen phones are perceived as more usable by the elderly, especially those who text (and thus type) more rather than use gadgets for calling or taking pictures (Arabian & Zakerian 2019, p. 1). Therefore, it is reasonable to suggest that improving the accessibility of touchscreen phones for the elderly is better than focusing on button-operated devices as an inclusive alternative.
Moreover, touchscreens are perceived as relatively easy to use and simple gestures or voice control, so they are deemed reasonably necessary by the elderly population (Korchut et al. 2017, p. 4). Some of the requirements the elderly population has for the touchscreen experience include adjusting for the gap between the intended and the actual touch location and support of drag and pinch gestures as those were easier than tapping (Petrie & Darzentas 2017, p. 91). Thus, a list of conditions that new screens must meet arises.
The functional specifications for the suggested touchscreen would include smoother recognition of tapping location. The product would work by registering the touch location: the pressure transfers through having a stronger electrical impulse on the touchscreen and thus having the sensor react at a better range (Rodriguez-Machorro et al. 2017, p. 2). At its core, the product would not be entirely new – rather, it would be an enhancement of the existing technology. In terms of product specifications, it may be implemented on capacitive touch screens, which are specifically reactive to human touch (Jha et al. 2020, p. 78). It may be achieved through a technique that Ayyildiz et al. suggest for creating haptic displays – a thinner conductive coating layer that allows stronger skin-display electricity conductivity (2018, p. 12672). Another aspect is the gap between the sensor and the underlying ‘layer’ of processing electronics – the recommended width is about 0.5 mm but may be tweaked to adjust the speed of signal transfer (sensitivity) (Rodriguez-Machorro et al. 2017, p. 3). The engineering team would have to test several types of coating, several thicknesses of coating, and gap widths to determine a suitable level.
Once the functional and product specifications are set, the team could then move on to the design review. There are several layers through which a project would be implemented: increased electric current, thinner conductive layer to increase sensitivity, or alternative methods discovered in testing. An essential element of the piece’s functionality in the market would also be its design: how it performs to meet the requirements, feels, and looks. It is essential to consider all aspects of the screen holistically, in conjunction with several popular gadget models. A suitable way would be to select the top ten models to test the finalized screen. Once the final design is settled, the product can be released to the test market. When selecting a test market, it is critical to consider nation- and age-appropriate releases. In the case of the touchscreen technology for seniors, nations where the elderly are more comfortable with technology may be a suitable first testing ground to determine whether it meets the expectations. Appropriate testing populations may be found in Hong Kong, Singapore, Canada, France, the US, or Australia.
The product development team’s efforts can solve the last two aspects of product design. The introduction of the product to the broader market is the process that will demonstrate to the developers what flaws or shortcomings may be fixed in the product to make it more appealing, as the feedback from customers will come in. Lastly, the evaluation process will commence once a substantial amount of feedback is gathered from the audience. The development team may then produce a report regarding the launch’s success.
Process Strategy and Layout Design
Several options may be relevant in the manufacturing processes for this proposal. A larger process layout would bear significant similarities to the production layout of a regular touchscreen – an assembly line to achieve a consistent task time at each station (Heizer, Render & Munson 2020, p. 403). A standard capacitive touch screen is made up of a base glass sheet or multiple sheets, with a coating of a conductive material, most commonly, “indium tin oxide (ITO) or aluminium-doped zinc oxide (AZO),” as they are both sufficiently conductive and transparent to be integrated with atop of the display (Kim et al. 2020, p. 1). The conventional production method entails placing a layer of material and then removing some of it until the desired thickness is achieved (Kim et al. 2020, p. 1). However, in the proposed method, the layer of ITO must be exceedingly thin, which makes it less suitable. Inspiration may be drawn from screens that use non-transparent materials like electrodes since they also require exceptional thinness.
Following a similar technology, the first step of production would be preparing and curing the glass substrate for the screen. The first one, known as “sputtering,” entails having ITO spread on a “polyethylene terephthalate substrate” – this 10-minute reaction is where the conductive layer is created (Chen, Chen & Chang 2017, p. 10). In the second step (another 10 minutes), the oven’s temperature rises to 400 °C to remove any organic particles (Kim et al. 2020, p. 3). The next step is to transfer the conductive material coating onto the cleaned and cured glass sheet at 80 °C for 30 minutes since that is the optimal “glass transition temperature” (Kim et al. 2020, p. 4). Once the materials are fully merged, the screen may be placed atop the touch-processing sensor of the device at a particular gap. Thus, the process requires four separate areas: three for temperature processing and the last one for assembly. This process will likely start at a medium volume and medium variety, accounting for different gadgets that a screen may be installed on, and the volume accounting for a limited (specific) audience.
Capacity and Planning
Once the manufacturing processes are outlined, sourced, and planned, the next step is to select appropriate capacity strategies. The suggested product utilizes an assembly-line, machine-powered method of manufacture. Hence, measuring the capacity is based on technology: calculating the capacity of each station (ovens and assembly machines) per unit of time and the units of time it takes to produce one touchscreen, subsequently dividing the former by the latter (Heizer, Render & Munson 2020, p. 340). Here, the bottleneck or constraints approach is most fitting (Heizer, Render & Munson, 2020) since the ‘glass transition’ station takes the longest time, 30 minutes (p. 345). However, a throughput time would be closer to 1.5 hours, given the summed-up time from all the workstations for the screen (Heizer, Render & Munson 2020, p. 345). A lagging adjustment may be suitable to accommodate the demand incrementally (Heizer, Render & Munson 2020, p. 354). If it increases, the operation time throughout the day should be lengthened; if it decreases, it should be shortened.
It is vital to consider that a touchscreen is not sold by itself but is instead a part of a larger group of varying technological devices, in this case, primarily smartphones. Hence, manufacturing dynamics would be tied closely to the success of smartphones with a new screen as a whole. An innovative product like a smartphone would tend to be a costly acquisition. The production will likely take time to transition from small- to medium-scale rates as more mainstream market taps into the innovation (Markovic, Draskovic & Gnjidic 2018, p. 5). Other considerations for the capacity here are inventory control for the completed products since that would help mediate the pressure on the lines and purchase of raw materials to ensure adequate production support.
In terms of inventory management, there are several meaningful considerations. The inventory management strategy to be used in this case is the “economic order quantity model” (EOQ), as suggested by Heizer, Render, and Munson (2020, p. 528). Ruidas, Seikh, and Nayak (2022) contend that using this model would be feasible because the demand for the product would be impacted by its selling price and, significantly, its reliability (p. 4). Moreover, this model is suitable given the patterns of diffusion of innovative technologies in the market: the pre-existing reputation of a smartphone brand will substantially impact the success of an updated version (with the new touchscreen) (Ruidas, Seikh & Nayak 2022, p. 18). Thus, the demand may fluctuate, and as such, it should be met by the new quantities of raw materials and packaging to be ordered to provide enough for the expected demand plus safety stock (Heizer, Render & Munson 2020, p. 533). Given the continuity of the process, no work-in-process inventory for the screens alone would exist – however, if the same space is expanded for smartphone manufacturers, it will change the logistics drastically (Heizer, Render & Munson 2020, p. 521).
Quality control is essential given the importance of touchscreen quality for the customer experience with their gadgets. As Ruidas, Seikh, and Nayak (2022) state, in the increasingly shorter cycle of personal technology use, the reputation of the initial launch may be critical to the success of the new screen (p. 1). Hence, a robust quality control strategy is required to ensure that the touchscreen will deliver consistently improved performance and customer experience. The Six Sigma quality management strategy is proposed since the product must have an extremely low rate of defects and ensure maximum customer satisfaction to uphold its reputation as an accessibility improvement (Heizer, Render & Munson 2020, p. 247).
Various factors in the manufacturing process must be considered to implement this strategy. A range of target technical characteristics such as layers’ thickness, gap width, overall conductivity, evenness of the piece, and others should be developed and rigidly set – an approach known as benchmarking (Heizer, Render & Munson 2020, p. 255). Chen, Chen, and Chang (2017) highlight the importance of accounting for evaluating manufacturing quality based on multiple specifications since that brings different mathematical relationships between quality evaluation parameters (p. 2). In particular, Chen, Chen, and Chang (2017) stress that the process of sputtering (creating the conductive layer) is the defining step and involves as many as five different quality characteristics; if these are unmet, the overall performance of the touchscreen declines (p. 10). Hence, there are five control points in the sputtering step alone, and other steps in the manufacturing process should be controlled through a multidimensional perspective.
Supply Chain Management (SCM)
Another critical question in introducing an innovative product is the selected supply chain management (SCM) strategy. In the case of touchscreen manufacture, the product results from transforming mostly raw components to create a part for a more complex gadget. As a result, manufacturers and assemblers only need to, for the most part, purchase components that would combine into the final product (Heizer, Render & Munson 2020, p. 477). Therefore, purchasing and procurement are suitable since most of the materials needed can be purchased in their raw form from suppliers. Du et al. (2021) suggest that in touchscreen manufacturing, like with many innovative products in a competitive setting, buying raw materials and doing so ‘ambitiously’ is a more profitable strategy (p. 2). In other words, there seems to be evidence of the fact that purchasing extra materials is a viable strategy for adjusting to the demand fluctuations in this situation. Given previously discussed potential changes in demand related to the customers gradually getting familiar with new technologies, there is further support for confident purchasing and procurement as an SCM strategy.
Sustainable Operations Management
In terms of operational strategies that contribute to sustainable outcomes, it is necessary to look at the manufacturing process again from an environmental angle. Although electric ovens are usually considered more sustainable in CO2 emissions than gas ovens, in most nations, the electric grid is powered by coal (Huang & Tomizuka 2017, p. 450). As a result, producing one display with electric ovens generates approximately 8.5 kg of CO2 equivalent (Huang & Tomizuka 2017, p. 450). In a study of touchscreen display production, Huang and Tomizuka (2017) suggest reducing the emissions by carefully considering available sources of power in the local grid and picking sustainable alternatives like solar energy (p. 450). Thus, the suggested operational strategy for this product manufacturing process would be multi-domestic since each country’s energy sourcing context is different.
In conclusion, the production of touchscreens that accommodate older people’s needs is a feasible and highly needed task. The primary identified challenge in operating touchscreens was a sensitivity that lowered with drier skin, causing a loss of responses from the device. Hence, the proposal intends to improve the extant designs of touchscreens by increasing responsiveness to a finger and improving discrimination techniques between purposeful and accidental touches. Given that the screens will be manufactured from scratch, the SCM strategy for this project is purchasing and procurement. The technological solution may be implemented by having a thinner layer of conductive material, most likely ITO, and, possibly, reducing the gap between the screen’s processing and conductive parts. The product would be tested in several models of smartphones to ensure seamless integration across a wide range of products, but the major design features would remain the same. The variety of smartphones would affect the sales, and much will hinge on smartphones’ extant reputation in the beginning. The capacity would be adjusted through a lag approach, adjusting to demand as necessary. However, in the long run, high quality will be essential to the product’s success, which requires strictly monitoring production. The manufacturing process entails lines with several stations: ovens set at different temperatures and an assembly station. The production parameters are monitored per the Six Sigma approach: having a set of technical standards, which are strictly controlled, would ensure that manufacturing is done according to requirements. Because of the emphasis on product reliability, the EOQ inventory management model will be implemented. Lastly, the local state of the environment will be emphasized, with efforts to reduce carbon emissions from ovens by seeking alternative energy sources. By following these steps, the proposal for a touchscreen accessible to all can be realized.
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