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An enlightened management philosophy.

An enlightened management philosophy

We were pleasantly surprised recently when a home-remodeling job was done by contracted tradesmen who acted as if they were working on their own house. Their work was that good.

Questioning revealed a philosophy almost unheard of in this type of trade. We learned these craftsmen are held in high esteem by their employer who includes them in regular weekly meetings where their advice is asked for on work scheduling as well as on technical matters. The boss respects their knowledge and experience. They, in turn, are committed to the success of the company, recognizing that only quality work done efficiently will assure future jobs. They also get financial rewards beyond hourly pay.

Credit must be given to an enlightened management that recognizes the value of its employees and builds a positive relationship in which everybody wins. It's encouraging to see this happening in manufacturing, where in the past employees too often were treated as expendable, held in place simply by threats to job security.

We recently found an example of this philosophy at work in the machine-tool industry. Okuma Machinery Inc, Charlotte, NC, the US facility of Okuma Machine Works Ltd, Oguchi, Japan, started with an empty, 150,000 sq ft plant in 1987. Some key machine-tool people were hired to get the plant underway, but most locally-hired workers had no machine-tool building experience. This May they shipped their 600th machine tool.

To accomplish this in two years took a commitment by management to realistically apply a philosophy for building a team of workers and managers. They explained that from day one a new hire is indoctrinated with the importance of quality and this is continually stressed as the most important mission of the company.

Employees are not referred to as such; they are company members, and it is made clear that their involvement in all matters is important. All are salaried. There are no time clocks; hours are reported on an honor system. Overtime is paid on an hourly basis, however. There are no sick days and no one is docked for being late. Part of the company philosophy says that improvement must be ongoing; you can't stand still. They depend on shop personnel to bring about continual improvement.

Above all, management explains that it is essential to communicate the plan. You must let every employee know what is expected of him and to report back to him regularly on progress or lack of it. When something different is put into effect, all company members are told what is involved and why it is being done.

Has this approach really made a difference at Okuma? Could a production rate of 60 machines per month from a startup two years ago have been accomplished otherwise? After all, employee-suggestion, participative-management, and various other plans have been around for years. The problem all too often is that a lot of lip service is paid to management philosophies that are never backed up by management deeds. Slogans, mission statements, or corporate vision statements lose a lot of credibility among employees when management resolve starts to slip and traditional bottom-line mentality takes over.

A tour of this southern US plant finds dedicated, enthusiastic workers whose interests are being challenged, and whose desires are being fulfilled by jobs well done. This can translate into a strong bottom line as well.
COPYRIGHT 1989 Nelson Publishing
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Copyright 1989 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Author:Green, Dick
Publication:Tooling & Production
Article Type:editorial
Date:Aug 1, 1989
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