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In 1974, a division of Motorola was acquired by Matsushita Electric Industrial Company. It employed 1200 people in Franklin Park to produce colour television receivers and microwave ovens. Five years after the change-over, in-process defects had dropped from 1-4 to 0-07 defects per set and productivity had jumped almost 30 percent. The labour required to produce a colour television receiver was cut in half. These gains were achieved by blending new equipment, technology, training and managerial practices to revitalise an already skilled labour force.
Equipment : Automatic equipment developed in Japan for Chassis assembly was used. Design changes reduced the number of required workers by 26 percent. Equipment and design engineers worked together to improve "producibility" making quality products easier to manufacture.
Technology : New assembly lines allowed workers to control their work flow individually. In place of a continuous, conveyor paced line, operators were given foot levers to detour work to their station and to forward finished pieces to the next work stations. Closed-circuit television systems were installed to broadcast quality information to workers on the production line.
Training : The importance of quality was continually emphasised, placing responsibility on production workers, not inspectors. End-product inspection teams were replaced by a few in-process inspectors who moved from one assembly line to another carrying out sampling inspection. New employees are trained both in the class-room and on-the-job, upto 5 days of each, during which they learn about quality expectations, are judged on whether they can do the work adequately and see whether they like the work conditions.
Managerial practice : Once a week all work stops for 10 to 15 minutes while supervisors communicate with their subordinates. A supervisor typically communicates with 45 workers about quality, productivity, absenteeism, scrap and any other subjects that might come up. If the supervisors cannot answer a question, they make a note of it and come prepared with an answer in the next meeting.
Every six months, manufacturing and quality control people meet to set quality goals for different areas. Bar charts are kept to signal which areas are above, near or below their targets. Special effort is concentrated on a particular production line, called the model line, to improve its performance. Workers on that line and support groups meet once a week to explore progress. Reasons for successes in the model line are identified and adapted to fit other lines.
A quality emphasis month is declared twice a year. Awareness is aroused by slogan and posters competitions, crossword puzzles with quality terms and suggestion contests. Winners are entertained at a felicitation party and given a modest reward.
The underlying purpose of all activities is to create an environment that will be conducive to cooperation and encouraging people to work together to identify problems and offer suggestions to solve them.
Questions : ^
(a) Discuss the relative contribution to quality improvement of the engineering/technology investments with the human resource management changes made at the Motorola plant.
(b) Quality control circles were not established at the plant by the Matsushita company. Suggest reasons that circles were not used, even though they enjoy great success in Japan.