OPMG2258 Operations Management
Eric was a bit dumbfounded at this and did not say much – he did not know if this was a “big deal” or not. When he got to his office he thought again, what Mr. Judge, General Manager, had said when he hired Eric. He warned Eric about the “lack of quality attitude” in the plant and said that Eric “should try to do something about this.” He had further emphasized the quality problems in the plant. “We have to improve our quality; it’s costing us a lot of money. I’m sure of it, but can’t prove it! Eric you have my full support in this matter; you’re in charge of these quality problems. This downward quality-productivity-turnover spiral has to end!”
The incident had occurred a week ago: the goods were probably out in the customer’s hands by now; everyone had forgotten about it (or wanted to!); and there seemed to be more pressing problems than this for Eric to spend his time on. However, this continued to nag at him. He felt like the quality department was being treated as a joke, and it also felt to him like a personal slap from manufacturing. He did not want to start a war with the production people but what could he do? He was troubled enough to cancel his appointments and spend the morning talking to a few people. After a long and very tactful morning he learned the following:
A.From personnel – The operator for the filling equipment had just been transferred from shipping two weeks ago. He had no formal training in this job but was being trained by Wayne on the job, to run the equipment. When Rob Evans had tested the high pressure cans, the operator was nowhere to be found and had only learned of the rejected material from Wayne after the shift was over.
B.From plant maintenance – This particular piece of automated filling equipment had been purchased two years ago for use on another product. It had been switched to the Greasex line six months ago, and maintenance had 13 work orders during the last months for repairs or adjustments on it. The equipment had been adapted by plant maintenance for handling the lower viscosity Greasex, which it had not originally been designed for. This included designing a special filling head. There was no scheduled preventative maintenance for this equipment, and the parts for the sensitive filling head, replaced three times in the last six months, had to be made at a nearby machine shop. Nonstandard downtime was running at 16% of actual running times.
C.From purchasing – The plastic nozzle heads for the Greasex can, recently designed by a vendor for this new product on a rush order, were often found with slight burrs on the inside rim, and this caused some trouble in fitting the top to the can. An increase in application pressure at the filling head by maintenance adjustment had solved the burr application problem or had at least “forced” the nozzle heads on despite the burrs. Purchasing said that they were going to talk to the sales representative of the nozzle supplier about this next time they came in.
D.From product design and packaging – The can, designed especially for Greasex, had been contoured to allow better gripping by the user. This change, instigated by marketing research, set Greasex apart from the appearance of its competitors and was seen by the designers to be “significant.” There had been no test of the effects of the contoured can on filling speed or filling hydrodynamics from a high-pressured filling head. Eric had a hunch that the new design, was acting as a venturi when being filled, but the packaging designer thought that “unlikely.”
E.From the manufacturing manager – He had heard about the problem: in fact, Wayne had made a joke about it, bragging about how he beat his production quota to the other foremen and shift supervisors. Wayne was thought of by the manufacturing manager to be one of the “best foremen we have… he always gets his production out.” His promotion papers were actually on the manufacturing manager’s desk when Hank dropped by. Wayne was being “strongly considered” for promotion to shift supervisor. The manufacturing manager, under pressure from Mr. Judge for cost improvements and reduced delivery times, sympathized with Eric but said that the rework area would have just vented with their pressure gauges what Wayne did by hand. “But, I’ll speak with Wayne about the incident.”
F.From marketing – The introduction of Greasex had been rushed to beat competitors to market and a major promotional / advertising campaign was now underway to increase consumer awareness. A deluge of orders is swamping the order-taking department and putting Greasex high on the back-order list. Production “had to turn the stuff out.” Even a little off spec was tolerable because “it would be better to have it on the shelf than not there at all. Who cares if the label is a little crooked or the stuff comes out with a little too much pressure? We need market share now in that high-tech segment.”
What bothered Eric the most was the safety issue of the high-pressure in the cans. He had no way of knowing how much of a hazard the high pressure was or if Wayne had vented them enough to effectively reduce the hazard. The data from the can manufacturer which Mark had showed him indicated that the high pressure which the inspector had found was not in the danger area; but then again the inspector had only used a sample testing procedure to reject the eight cases. Even if he could morally accept that there was no product safety hazard, could he make sure that this never happened again?
Eric, skipping lunch, sat in his office and thought about the morning’s events. Last week’s seminar had talked about “the role of quality”, “productivity and quality”, “creating a new attitude”, and the “quality challenge”, but where had they told him what to do when this happens? He had left a very good job to come here because he thought the company was serious about the importance or quality, and he wanted a challenge. Eric demanded and received salary equal to the manufacturing, marketing and R&D directors’ and reported directly to the General Manager. Yet he still did not know exactly what he should or should not do or even what he could or could not do.
Provocative questions to help get you started:
1.What is wrong with the way quality is managed in this company?
2.What should be done to improve quality management?
3. What should Eric Seemore do?
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