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A Diagnostic Analysis of the Lima Tire Plant

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A Diagnostic Analysis of the Lima Tire Plant

Sabrina D. Foster

American Military University

Abstract

This paper will provide a diagnostic report of the Lima Tire Plant. There are many problems within this company, and without them being properly addressed the company will continue to lose employees and production will continue to drop. The main problems that I see within this company are high turnover of the line foremen due to production and morale, training within the company. I will attempt to analyze these areas through the different metaphors we have studied over the past seven weeks. I will also provide possible recommendations and solutions that may help get the company back on the right track to success.

A Diagnostic Analysis of the Lima Tire Plant

The Treadway Tire Company employed almost 9,000 hourly and salaried staff in North America. The Lima Tire Plant, located in Lima, Ohio, is one of eight manufacturing plants operated by the Treadway Tire Company. (Skinner and Beckham, 2008, p. 1)

In 2007, The Lima Tire Plant produced approximately 25,000 passenger and light truck tires per day. The plant encompassed about 1.5 million square feet on 128 acres of land. About 1,120 people were employed at the plant – 970 were hourly employees and 150 were salaried. The hourly personnel at the plant were unionized by the United Steel Workers, which had merged with the United Rubber Workers in 1995. The union contract dictated job classifications, pay rates, the schedule for pay increases, overtime rates, benefits, health/safety standards, and grievance procedures for hourly workers in the plant. (Skinner et all, 2008, p. 2)

In 2006, Treadway shut down the Greenville, South Carolina, plant, which had been plagued by outdated equipment and moved operations to the Lima plant. The Ohio plant had undergone a $100 million expansion and modernization effort in 2000 which enabled the plant to increase capacity and utilize new manufacturing technology. (Skinner et all, 2008, p. 2)

Due to the updated equipment and technology spending, the Lima plant had become one of Treadway’s top plants for productivity and quality ratings. Despite a positive outlook for the company, it was still plagued with its share of problems.

The plant was experiencing a big turnover in line foremen. The job of the line foreman was a daily challenge. They had to juggle and resolve a variety of personnel, resource and administrative issues during a 12 hour shift. Furthermore, line foremen often felt they were pulled in different, often conflicting directions, by management, the workers and the union. (Skinner et all, 2008, p. 3)

Meeting performance goals was the line foremen main responsibility. Each day the line foremen received a breakout report by line area of the previous day’s actual performance versus forecasted performance. If the results fell below forecasted levels, the foremen were subject to a verbal counseling or a poor performance report. Their top priority was to start the tire production line and ensure no technical issues occurred that would interfere with production. If something broke, the foremen had to put in a call to maintenance to fix the issue. Or if somebody showed up late for work, or called off for that day, they were forced to scramble to find a replacement.

Morale was a big issue in the plant as well. The hourly employees didn’t feel like the foremen respected them and the foremen felt the hourly employees didn’t listen to them. Whenever things didn’t go the employees way they ran to the union and filed grievances, which often times the foremen never heard anything back from the union and the workers were sent back to work with no disciplinary action.

Another issue with the company was training. Foremen didn’t receive any kind of formal training. A lot of them didn’t have the knowledge to be in that position without the proper training, and the supervisors just left them to sink or swim. A lot of the foremen left the position and took positions as hourly employees at the Lima plant, moved to another plant and took positions as hourly employees, or left the company altogether. The director of human resources, Ashley Wall, had tried to create a month-long training program for new foreman, but due to budget cuts in 2007, the program had to be discontinued. It was left up to general supervisors and area managers to provide the workers with the training they needed, but because they were busy as well, training was pushed off to the waist-side and the foremen had to try to learn the system as they went along.

Interpretation 1(Machine)

The Lima Tire Plant is a company that is run under the mechanistic style. Morgan (1998) stated “When managers think of organizations as machines, they tend to manage and design them as machines made up of interlocking parts that each play a clearly defined role in the functioning of the whole (p. 10).”

According to Skinner and Beckam (2008), “A foreman’s top priority was to start the tire production line each day and ensure that no technical issues would stop production during the shift (p. 3).” There were usually 20 people on a production line and if equipment for one part of the line broke during the shift, or if people didn’t show up for work, it was up to the foreman to take care of the issues. They also had to ensure everybody on their line was following safety and health standards as well. Trying to find last minute replacements to fill in when somebody called out of work, keeping the production line going on top of their other responsibilities and working long work hours could be very stressful for foremen.

According to Knowles and Moore (1997), “When organizations are viewed as living systems it is observed that people are self-organizing and spontaneously creative. People working together are greater than the sum of their parts. What they achieve often exceeds everyone’s expectations including their own.” This is especially true if you have a foreman who is able to solve issues that arise quickly and efficiently. They must be well versed in the job and know the production line functions inside and out, so they can better address those issues when they arise.

Interpretation 2 (Political)

When we see organizations through the lens of politics, patterns of competing interests, conflicts, and power plays dominate the scene. We can identify different styles of government. We see how organization becomes politicized because of divergent interests of individuals and groups. We observe many different sources of power and learn how they can be used in our advantage (Morgan, 1998, p. 147).

The political metaphor was clearly evident in this company. Back in August 2007, an employee satisfaction survey and exit interviews of departing foremen revealed a lot of discontent within the company. The survey revealed the tension between the foremen and the line employees and lack of communication between the foremen and management.

Foremen felt they had no control over the line workers. They feel powerless and that nobody listened to them. When they disciplined the line workers, they would run to the union and the grievance committee often sent them back to work with a cleared record and no explanation to the foreman.

Furthermore, the foremen felt management was more concerned about the job getting done versus their needs. The foremen were expected to meet or exceed targets which got higher every year. It didn’t matter if there were problems with equipment or people not showing up for work. Sometimes things were out of their control, and they felt management was only concerned about job production and didn’t care how they got it done as long as it was done.

Because of this dissatisfaction, the morale of the foremen suffered. Brandon Bellingham, the Lima plant manager, said “Foremen feel isolated from the rest of the plant. They are the lowest players on the totem pole, and they feel their contributions are undervalued, and their concerns ignored (Skinner et all, p. 4).

According to Linz, Good and Huddleston (2006), “Employee morale is a fundamental component of business operations - high morale coincides with job satisfaction, high work effort, creativity and initiative, a sense of pride in one's work, a commitment to one's organization, and the desire to put the achievement of group (common) goals ahead of personal goals, thereby enhancing an organization's performance . Low morale, typically corresponding to high absenteeism, labor turnover, unresolved grievances or strikes, impedes the achievement of the organization's desired outcomes.”

The foremen didn’t receive the required training for the job they were expected to fulfill. According to Herb Adams, a general supervisor, “I don’t have a lot of time to devote to hand holding. I tell my guys to take control on the plant floor. They have to keep their eyes open for trouble makers and let them know who is boss (Skinner et all, 2008, p. 5).”

“Despite the reluctance of area managers and general supervisors to change, Wall felt that enhanced training was key to reducing the turnover among line foremen. She estimated that 43% of the 23 foremen who had left in 2007 done so voluntarily (Skinner et all, 2008, p. 5).”

Interpretation 3 (Culture)

When we view organizations as cultures, we see them as minisocieties with their own distinctive values, rituals, ideologies, and beliefs. This metaphor helps us to rethink every aspect of corporate functioning, including strategy, structure, design, and the nature of leadership and management (Morgan, 1998, p. 111).

According to Oliver (2006), “Tyler (1871) was first to provide a formal description of the term “culture”. He defined the term as: That complex whole which includes knowledge, belief, art, morals, law custom, and any other capabilities and habits acquired by man as a member of society.”

Subcultures can be seen within the Lima plant with the labor union. The union contract dictated job classifications, pay rates, overtime rate, pay increases and grievance procedures for hourly workers in the plant. It seemed like the hourly employees used the union as a crutch to have things work out in their favor. Whenever things didn’t seem to go their way and the employees felt the company had violated the union contract, they would file a grievance with the union. They found the protection in the union they needed when things weren’t going their way. Foremen were not involved in the process and often times they never found out the outcome of the grievance.

“I discipline the hourly workers when necessary, but even here I feel powerless. The union guys on the grievance committee often send the worker back smiling, with a clear record and no explanation to me,” said one of the foremen on the customer satisfaction survey conducted in 2007 (Skinner et all, 2008, p. 4)

Recommendations/Solutions

There are probably a lot of ways to implement the solutions but I would definitely implement mandatory formal training for all new foremen. A big problem lies with training. These new foremen are put in leadership positions, but don’t necessarily have the right tools in their tool bag to accomplish all that is expected of them. I know the budget was an issue with training before, but I would find a way to set additional funds aside for training. If that didn’t work, then I would set up some type of in-house training for the new foremen. The company is going to continue to have a high turnover of foremen and productivity is going to keep decreasing because of morale issues and lack of on the job training.

“There is a growing interest in structured on-the-job training. It is becoming clear that both classroom instruction and unstructured on-the-job training have major drawbacks when preparing personnel for their jobs. Structured on-the-job training offers a third route towards competence, at least for some tasks within some jobs, and can be defined as a task-oriented training (or part of such training) that takes place on the shop floor. The learner carries out assignments according to a written plan, being coached by an experienced colleague or by a supervisor. At the end, the mastery of the tasks is formally assessed (Dejong, 1993).”

A lot of morale issues stems from conflict between the line foremen and the hourly employees. Another issue is the communication between the foremen and management. The lack of communication has created a barrier and the only way things are going to be productive is if the barrier is broken down.

“Conflict is a familiar feature of life in an organizational society: It is always latent in situations where interests collide, and becomes manifest when people begin to perceive and act upon their different ideas, aims and aspirations (Morgan, 1989, p. 196).

Hodgson (2002) stated ” The approach is not to avoid or suppress conflict, but to turn the conflict around so that one can learn from it and move on. He stated seven skills for conflict resolution:

· Identify needs to negotiate a solution that is fair for all parties involved (called a “win/win approach”)

• Taking control of one’s thoughts in order to respond appropriately to conflict

• Building empathy with others

• Behaving assertively

• Handling power constructively

• Acknowledging, expressing and dealing with emotions

• Facilitating resolution and overcoming reluctance”

Morale can affect any business or office environment. And when morale is low, productivity is low. One thing that might improve morale is through company functions/gatherings, or some type of reward system. This would probably break the ice and people would get to know each other on a personal level thus improving the work environment and productivity.

The plant manager tried to implement social gatherings for the plant, but the general supervisors and area managers were not accustomed to that type of management or level of social interaction, so maybe a survey should be conducted on the type of gatherings or functions the organization want to participate in as a whole.

Next, there really needs to be a meeting of the minds. Everybody needs to come together and put all the issues on the table. Before the meeting, the ground rules need to be set so everybody is on the same page. Then the floor should be opened up for people to address their issues within their department and figure out ways to make the job experience better for all. The thing to remember is that it can’t be a finger pointing, griping session. It needs to be a productive meeting that everybody benefits from. There needs to be representation from all levels of the company to include the union, hourly employees, line foremen, supervisors and managers. There seems to be a communication breakdown within all levels in the company and hopefully this meeting will at least close the gap a little bit.

“Few people dispute the importance of competent communication in the workplace. Communication is central to organizational functioning and to the daily pursuits of individuals within organizations. Among other things, members of an organization use communication to socialize new employees, define and redefine roles, and acquire information about their jobs and responsibilities. Thus an understanding of communication's role in organizations, and particularly the role of communication abilities, is a key issue in organizational studies (Zorn and Violanti, 1996).

“It does not matter if you work for a company that has nine employees or 9,000; effective communication in the workplace is an essential part of any organization. When a business suffers from poor communication among the employees this generally leads to a number of issues such as misunderstandings, lack of information, poor performance, frustration, increased staff turnover etc. No matter how much experience and expertise you have your ability to communicate effectively can make the difference between great success and simply “getting by.” Most work problems can be traced back to a failure in communication (www.managementskillsadvisor).”

Some things to help you effectively communicate in the workplace are as follows:

• Practice openness

• Communicate expectations

• Communicate proactively

• Communicate positively

• Observe and listen

(www.managementskillsadvisor)

Conclusion/Summary

In conclusion, this company had a lot of internal issues going on that needed to be addressed: Employee dissatisfaction, high turnover of foremen, communication barriers and training issues. Hopefully the analysis I have provided uncovered some of those issues through my lens and the use of metaphors we have studied these past 7 weeks.

References

Dejong, Jan, A. (1993). Structured on the job training at Hoogovens Ijmuiden. Journal of

European industrial training. 17(2). Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com.

ezproxy1.apus.edu/docview/215394084?accountid=8289

Hodgson, Julia. (2002). How to resolve conflict in the workplace. Leadership and Organization

Development Journal. 36(5/6). Retrieved from http:// search.proquest.com/ docview/

226924260?accountid=8289

Knowles, Dick; Moore, Maggie. (1997). People, machines and work. The Journal for quality and

participation. 20(2). Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com.ezproxy2.apus.edu/

docview/219124445?accountid=8289

Linz, Susan, J.; Good, Linda, K.; Huddleston, Patricia. (2006). Worker morale in Russia.

Journal of managerial psychology. 21(5). Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com.

ezproxy1.apus.edu/docview/215868077?accountid=8289

Morgan, G. (1998). Images of organization: The executive edition. San Francisco, CA: Berrett-

Koehler Publishers

Morgan, G. (1989). Creative organization theory. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

Oliver, Stan (2006). How to develop culture in organizations: A multiple case study of large

Distributed organizations. Journal of knowledge management. 10(4). Retrieved

http://search.proquest.com/docview/230301651?accountid=8289

Skinner, W., Beckham, H. (2008). The Treadway Tire Company: Job dissatisfaction and high

turnover at the Lima tire plant. Brief Cases. 2189. Harvard Business Publishing.

Zorn, Theodore, E.; Violanti, T. (1996). Communication abilities and individual

achievement in organizations. Management Communication Quarterly : McQ. 10(2)

Retrieved from http:// search.proquest.com.ezproxy1.apus.edu/docview/

216296901?accountid=8289

http://www.managementskillsadvisor.com/effective-communication-in-the-workplace.html

Retrieved online Feb. 25, 2012…...

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