CASE STUDY #3
Problems in the Computer Assembly Division
You are in charge of a five person operation responsible for assembling personal computers for a small computer manufacturing firm located in the southeast. As the assembly unit supervisor, your production goals include assembling 80 personal computers per day and ensuring 95 percent of these computers pass the operational inspection of the quality assurance unit. To meet these goals, you coordinate and plan the work of your five subordinates and ensure they have the training and materials needed to get the job done. To maximize efficiency, you have organized the tasks performed by the group members along functional lines. Fred is responsible for assembling all of the hard drives for the unit. Fred is a retired Army sergeant with 16 years of electronics experience, is a hard worker, and has been assembling hard drives for six years. Bill assembles the CD ROM and floppy drives. Bill recently completed an electronics degree from a local technical school and this is his first full time job. He is 20 years old and has been working in the assembly unit for a year. Sherry assembles the mother boards. She is a single mother with two children and will be completing her bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering in three months. She has been with the assembly unit for four years and has been an outstanding employee. Julie does the final assembly, and has only been with the assembly unit for six months. Julie is 22 years old and her sister is married to the owner of the company. Morgan has five years of experience working in the company’s parts supply section. He attended the company’s operational inspection course and transferred over to your unit six months ago. Although he has no electronics experience beyond the operational inspection course, he performs all of the unit’s final operational inspections before the computers are shipped to the quality assurance unit. Partly through your training and coordination skills, the assembly unit has been able to meet all production and quality goals set over the past year. However, given the events of the past few weeks, you are uncertain whether you will be able to meet this quarter’s production goals.
Over the past several weeks you have noticed your work group has only been assembling an average of 62 computers per day, and 15 percent of the computers assembled have been returned to the assembly unit for failing to meet quality assurance standards. Julie has privately complained to you that she cannot complete the final assembly of the computers because Fred has been doing a very slow and shoddy job assembling the hard drives. When you confront Fred with this problem, he states he is having a difficult time getting reliable parts from the supply department. Some of the parts he receives are out of specs, and rather than waiting four hours for supply to bring new parts, he repairs the parts himself before using them in the hard drives. He also states the production problem has more to do with Julie doing very little but talking to Morgan for the first two hours every morning and then working hard for the next six to see if she can make the unit’s daily production goal. Fred also stated Julie seemed very bored with her job and she may have resorted to this work tactic to make her job more challenging. You have also noticed Morgan has been coming to work late and Bill has been taking longer lunch hours than permitted over the past four weeks. When you confront Morgan and Bill about their tardiness, Morgan stated he and Bill always stay late to make up their time, and coming to work late was not a big deal in the supply department and shouldn’t be one for the assembly unit. Additionally, everyone in the work unit seems to be fairly angry because you gave Morgan several days off to attend his high school class reunion (even though he spends the first two hours talking to Julie, comes to work late, and the unit is not meeting production goals) and because the owner recently singled out Julie for her outstanding performance by giving her a five percent pay hike for helping the assembly unit meet its performance goals for the first half of the year. You have noticed the level of cohesion and communication in the work group has taken a substantial drop recently. Morgan, Julie, and Bill seem to be talking to each other but not to anyone else.
Fred seems to be keeping to himself more than usual, and Sherry has told you she wants to leave the company because of all the infighting in the assembly unit. You know Sherry is serious about leaving the unit and has been interviewing with one of your competitors across town.
The owner has become concerned with both the performance and the morale of your work unit, and you are to meet with him this afternoon to discuss these problems. You know he is a man of action and will want to see a specific plan for improving both the unit’s morale and performance. Moreover, because the firm operates on a low profit margin, you know if you do not get results in the next few months then you may be looking for another job. What will you do?
Reference: Hughes (2015)
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