The following appeared in a report presented for discussion at a meeting of the directors of a company that manufactures parts for heavy machinery.

“The falling revenues that the company is experiencing coincide with delays in manufacturing. These delays, in turn, are due in large part to poor planning in purchasing metals. Consider further that the manager of the department that handles purchasing of raw materials has an excellent background in general business, psychology, and sociology, but knows little about the properties of metals. The company should, therefore, move the purchasing manager to the sales department and bring in a scientist from the research division to be manager of the purchasing department.”

Discuss how well reasoned… etc.

In response to a coincidence between falling revenues and delays in manufacturing, the report recommends replacing the manager of the purchasing department. The grounds for this action are twofold. First, the delays are traced to poor planning in purchasing metals. Second, the purchasing manager’s lack of knowledge of the properties of metals is thought to be the cause of the poor planning. It is further recommended that the position of the purchasing manager be filled by a scientist from the research division and that the current purchasing manager be reassigned to the sales department. In support of this latter recommendation, the report states that the current purchasing manager’s background in general business, psychology, and sociology equip him for this new assignment. The recommendations advanced in the report are questionable for two reasons.

To begin with, the report fails to establish a causal connection between the falling revenues of the company and the delays in manufacturing. The mere fact that falling revenues coincide with delays in manufacturing is insufficient to conclude that the delays caused the decline in revenue. Without compelling evidence to support the causal connection between these two events, the report’s recommendations are not worthy of consideration.

Second, a central assumption of the report is that knowledge of the properties of metals is necessary for planning in purchasing metals. No evidence is stated in the report to support this crucial assumption. Moreover, it is not obvious that such knowledge would be required to perform this task. Since planning is essentially a logistical function, it is doubtful that in-depth knowledge of the properties of metals would be helpful in accomplishing this task.

In conclusion, this is a weak argument. To strengthen the recommendation that the manager of the purchasing department be replaced, the author would have to demonstrate that the falling revenues were a result of the delays in manufacturing. Additionally, the author would have to show that knowledge of the properties of metals is a prerequisite for planning in purchasing metals.

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