Changes in the competitive environment have strongly influenced manufacturing companies to adopt and develop best practice. Best practice is usually imported into companies using the services of consultancy organisations. The use of consultancy services does not guarantee success however, and inadequate results have been obtained by practitioners who have engaged in client-consultant relationships. The inadequacy of these results may be explained by the installation of pre-defined solutions by consultants as opposed to the adaptation and implementation of solutions to meet the specific requirements of practitioners. Tills may in part be explained by a lack of understanding of 'best practice'. Tills work presented in this thesis investigated the feasibility of computer based mechanisms for intervention in small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs) for the delivery of best practice. The research was undertaken using a prototyping approach. Three prototype computer based tools (CBTs) were developed by the author and tested by practitioners. The prototypes were designed based on a set of objectives and a framework of features which was developed. These frameworks were constructed from a synthesis of the research findings which included a study of best practice, the identification of characteristics of types of intervention, the identification of SME characteristics, and inhibitors of change in SMEs. The research has indicated that an approach using computer based tools is appropriate for intervention in SMEs and for adapting best practice to meet specific requirements. A structured project management approach is required with identifiable goals and benefits. An exploratory learning environment should be used to deliver complex best practice concepts and to support the goal oriented approach. Tools and techniques provided by the CBT enable the achievement of methodological tasks and facilitate experimentation and learning. The approach should not prescribe solutions, but should provide information through computer generated analyses to support decision making. The research suggests that the proposed approach may support a workbook based methodology, or may encapsulate a process methodology. The originality of this work is in the provision of a definition of best practice, an explanation of the deficiencies of existing mechanisms for the transfer of best practice to SMEs, and the specification of the features required by a new computer-based approach. Tills provides new knowledge for the field of production and operations management.

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