The Treadway tire company is a manufacturing company that deals with production of tires. The company has eight manufacturing plants and one of them is the Lima tire plant in Ohio. . The plant went through modernization in 2000 and after the shutdown of another plant the volume shifted to Lima and now the plant is operating 24hours, and is considered to be one of the most productive plants of Treadway.
In Lima plant they have 1120 employees of which 970 are hourly employed and all of them work in two shifts each lasting for 12yours. The main expense for production of tires are the raw materials and the main raw material is oil (petroleum), and knowing the oil market we state that in the past years the price of oil has gone up by a huge percentage. In order to minimize the cost the company maximizes the productivity by introducing continuous operations (24h work) and by implementing only two shifts they reduce headcount.
There are few profiles of workers or so called foreman in Lima, firstly by the type of employing there are divided in hourly workers, and salary workers, and secondly by their background which arises from three sources: internal hire which are hourly workers that are promoted (80%), external workers which are young graduates from local colleges, and experienced workers transferred from another Treadway plant. Each foreman is supervised by a line foreman, whose duty is to meet the performance goal that is being set by supervisors.
The foreman job is to keep operations running, solve on-spot problem that may occur and handle administrative and union procedures. Lima used few recruiting methods such as posting job announcements on the bulletin board or on the company intranet for internal hire, or on the internet or college job fairs for external hiring. After being selected each employee had go successfully complete the First Line Test (FLT), a five hour exam which was asking each applicant to develop a production plan, and to solve case studies on interpersonal relations. Diagnosis and solutions:
Many problems were ongoing in the company, most of them had to be solved by Hr representative Ashley Wall. There was a period of few days from Christmas to New Year when the plant was not working and was closed for maintenance, so in that period Ms. Wall had to find a proper solution for the problem. Ms. Wall had ten year experience in Treadway and the main problem for Lima plant was the high turnover of labor, too many people were leaving the job and too many people were entering. This reflected bad for the company since costs were affected by this negative trend.
I think the whole system structure was malfunctioning in Lima and that is the root of negative effects that occurred later on. First of all when entering the company each employee is not receiving a formal training, they only get an informal training and they are expected to learn on the spot. Knowing the specialization of the job, the developers of the system had to be aware that not everybody is professional in industrial engineering and a new employee has to have a formal training in order to be ready to perform right away.
On-the-spot training is not effective in this kind of fast operating company, it takes time and patience, and the plant was operating in full throttle and could not afford slow response or waiting. Ms. Wall was planning to implement a formal training which would be introduction to the job by the area managers but the company at the time could not afford increasing the cost.
I think if they consider long term thinking this is a great opportunity, the company will maybe slow down its production in the first few weeks until the operation smoothens but after that the entering employees will be working in full capacity from the first day and will increase productivity. Later on I suggest that each employee starting from managers to foreman should undergo a procedure of training. In the employee survey that has been conducted the statement “I feel prepared to accomplish duties of my job” had most answers “disagree” which only confirms the need of training.
Second major problem the company faced was the dissatisfaction of line foreman, they felt like they did not have the authority and too much pressure been put on them. The increased pressure on the workplace increases stress so that can lead to non performance. Also the line foremen did not know their legal rights and obligations, so as they stated “sometimes the workers know more than us”. Tension between line foreman and hourly workers and line foreman and their supervisors was felt, and foremen got the impression like they were treated unfairly.
I think that the company enforced too much obligations but gave too less authority to the line foreman and they felt frustrated. The line foreman were not involved in the resolution of the grievance so actually there was a situation where they were held responsible for some workers attitude and when they tried to punish or correct that employee the syndicate and the supervisors let them free and they were coming out as winners in the situation. In my opinion more freedom and authority should be given to line foreman. The line foreman should be empowered.
According to me the company had a bad strategy, they focused on cost effectiveness more than job satisfaction, and I think that if their workers are satisfied the costs will go down since the employees motivation will increase and thus the productivity as a motivation response. Last serious problems I recognized was the fact that employees did not feel like they have a space for constant advancement in the hierarchy, many times it happened that new employees with college degree were going on upper places and capable employees were kept in one position for a longer period.
I think the company should judge the workers potential better and give a chance to existing employees to prove themselves on higher positions as first option. I would also try to implement Ms. Wall’s proposal to disperse the source of recruitment more, the quality existing labor should be kept and occasional promotions should be offered to them, but fresh, educated and trained blood should enter the company more often in order to increase productivity in the long term. Last proposal from me would be to reinvestigate the two shift operating strategy.
In this business of manufacturing each employee is used up, or in other words cannot provide its best after he gets tired. People are not machines to perform with their full capacity for twelve consecutive hours. If the shifts are reorganized and three shifts are imposed instead of two shifts, the work load would disperse and according to me more productivity would be generated since pressure and fatigue would decrease and there is more room for organizing operations. Conclusions:
Lima Plant already shows results above average and is one of the best plants of Treadway, in order to improve and maintain that position the company should modernize. First of all they should reinvestigate their priorities and decide whether they actually are getting the ultimate productivity out of the workers or they are just doing above the average? Is there a way to even maximize work productivity by increasing job satisfaction? Lima Plant operates traditionally according to me, they have unions and two shift operations. They do not actually consider the negative effect of these two.
They have an internal problem of tension between hierarchical level, dissatisfaction of workers and high turnover and at the same time they have a union, so logically there is a problem. Either the union doesn’t negotiate well or the union is not needed at all. According to me it is the second option. The company should start working as team not as a group, they should handle their problem internally and should go from Storming to Norming and finally to performing. The company can also increase productivity by imposing training and some operating changes such as implementing a three shift model.
Expenses might increase in the first few months but each company should consider long term thinking, so their small initial expenses would return in a short period. By modernizing the company work turnover would decrease, employees would know what they are doing on the job by receiving training, the line foreman would have less reason to be stressed since the work load be decreased and pressure will decrease with it and costs will lower since I consider these changes to be investment not expense.