Team Work and Empowerment at the A.O. Smith Corporation

Article

Shay, Michael E.; White, G. Randy; Blackman, Paul   (1991, ASQC)  

Annual Quality Congress, Milwaukee WI    Vol. 45    No. 0
QICID: 9744    May 1991    pp. 801-807
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Article Abstract

By 1981 the A.O. Smith Automotive Products Company realized a need to move beyond traditional quality improvement practices in order to meet customers' demands for higher quality and lower prices. This paper describes their steps to establish a process of cultural and organizational change and establish a new system based upon continuous improvement through self-directed work teams.

The first step in 1981, establishing a quality circle program, was not successful because participation was limited. A new planning and problem-solving process called B.E.S.T. (Bringing Employee Skills Together by the A.O. Smith employees) was established and included representatives from all seven unions at A.O. Smith. Participants used several planning and analytical tools to design the new system, and decision making was pushed down to the most responsive, competent levels of the organization.

The first phase of the B.E.S.T. experience taught A.O. Smith that everyone affected by innovative changes had to be a participant in the design process. The second phase focused on the tools that operators needed to exercise their new responsibilities. The third phase incorporated the concepts of internal customers and suppliers and built mutual adjustment into each operation. The final phase developed action plans for training implementation, resulting in a broader range of skills. As a result, productivity increased, costs of quality fell, and the percentage of repaired parts decreased.

Keywords

Automobile industry,Continuous improvement (CI),Empowerment,Manufacturing,Quality management (QM),Self Directed Work Teams (SDWT),A.O. Smith Automotive Products Company


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