Big League Quality

Article

Jacques, March Laree   (2001, ASQ)  

Quality Progress    Vol. 34    No. 8
QICID: 15048    August 2001    pp. 27-34
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Article Abstract

Hillerich & Bradsby Co. (H&B) has been producing the renown Louisville Slugger baseball bats for more than a century, first from wood, and more recently from aluminum. Today the firm manufactures bats and hockey sticks in six plants in the United States and Canada. It also designs and markets other sports gear produced by overseas contractors. Despite its diversity, baseball bats have remained H&B's main focus, and by its 100th anniversary in 1984, the company faced stiff competition from overseas manufacturers. Concerned and looking for new ideas, CEO John A. "Jack" Hillerich III attended a seminar conducted by W. Edwards Deming, thus beginning a quality journey that persists to this day. One of the first changes at H&B was to eliminate quotas, resulting in an immediate reduction in rework resulting from workers pushed beyond their capabilities. H&B also eliminated dreaded performance appraisals, replacing them with annual salary increases that are the same rate for everyone. Eliminating commission-based pay in sales cost the company a few salespeople, but the remaining sales force is more a part of the H&B team. By fostering learning and a capacity for change, H&B now feels comfortable that its quality foundation is well established. This proved vital when the company moved its headquarters from Indiana back to downtown Louisville, and at the same time opened the new Louisville Slugger Museum. Jack Hillerich found Deming's concepts right for the company, and he stayed involved in the change effort. However, Hillerich and company constantly explore new ideas to improve the way they do business and meet the challenges of the future. Sidebar articles discuss making bats for professional baseball, the wood vs. metal debate, Louisville Slugger bat statistics, and the history of Hillerich & Bradsby Company.

Keywords

Continuous quality improvement (CQI),Case study,Cultural change,Employee involvement (EI),Management styles,Manufacturing,Deming, W. Edwards


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