The Pathway to Operator Control


Newberg, Craig K.; Nielsen, James R.   (1990, ASQC)   Campbell Soup Company, Omaha, NE

Annual Quality Congress, San Francisco, CA    Vol. 44    No. 0
QICID: 9537    May 1990    pp. 723-728
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Article Abstract

Throughout this decade, American manufacturers have attempted to regain their superior position in the international marketplace. To accomplish this, they began copying Japanese employee participation techniques. While attempts to implement programs using these techniques seemed to contain initial successes, the hoped for change did not occur.

Like many American manufacturers, Campbell Soup Company successfully imitated these programs, but fell short of a true transition to Total Quality. Why? Because there had been little or no change on the factory floor. All too often there was no focused mechanism to remove the many obstacles at the operator level. This paper demonstrates how the "Pathway to Operator Control" is that mechanism.

Our pathway chart presents a structured, three-step approach designed to:

  • remove barriers which prevent operators from doing their job properly
  • utilize process control to develop clear, capable systems
  • provide general and specialized training
The paper discusses how Campbell Soup forms teams of "floor-smart" people to work full time, one-on-one, with key operators. This "one-on-one" approach makes the process truly unique.

This document describes how the teams first help to remove "barriers" and how operators actually initiate this process. Not all barriers are mechanical; some relate to communication or procedures. Solutions may be as simple as improved lighting or as complex as major capital expenditures. In all cases, the team must involve the operator and begin solving the simple problems immediately. Quick action encourages the workers and begins to prepare them for the increased responsibility of Operator Control.

The report also explains how the teams teach operators to develop simple flow diagrams of their processes. These diagrams introduce operators to process control and help to identify Critical Control Points (CCPs). CCPs are actions or steps in a process that ultimately affect the quality of the finished product. To make decisions and take actions operators must understand how CCPs affect the process and why they are critical. The team and operator work together to develop methods of measuring and documenting these CCPs, reevaluating and simplifying paperwork wherever possible. Overly long instructions and extra documentation are often an excuse for weak training.

Campbell's unique approach to operator training is outlined in this paper. We have found that to be truly effective, training must be conducted one-on-one with the Operators and include as much on-the-job training as possible. Trainers should be selected for both expertise and teaching ability. Training must include both "nice to know" as well as "need to know" information. The more Operators know about their process and how they contribute to the total operation, the more ownership they will feel to their job and company.

We also discuss the operators' positive response to this approach and how initial union concerns were addressed. When operators are in control of their processes, they possess the ability to identify problems, make decisions, and take corrective action with little or no supervision. To achieve this level of performance, operators require proper equipment, dependable processes and thorough training.

Finally, we demonstrate how local plant management support can develop into corporate-wide acceptance. We are finding that Operator Control changes the management organization. Supervisors stop fighting fires and learn to become coaches, problem-solvers, and trainers.

To achieve "Total Quality" and remain competitive in the international marketplace, continuous improvement must become every employee's personal goal. The Pathway to Operator Control is the next step toward that change.


Case study,Food, Drug, and Cosmetics Division,Problem solving,Total Quality Management (TQM)

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