How Effective is working Teams

Team-based working systems are sparking off a revolution on the shop floor. Team work and its effects in Strategic and operational processes in Organisations.

WIDGET India is learning a new lesson:  Togetherness Enhanturing Systems.  More succinctly, the doctrine of WORKING TEAMS is sweeping away the mindless routine of shop floors in corporate’s across the country.  By bringing together workers, supervisors, and managers from different disciplines and organizing them as small teams, corporate India is radically tinkering with its manufacturing processes.

As a result, factories are turning into team-based entities.  And these teams are creating a revolution on the shop floor: cutting costs, improving quality, boosting productivity, catalyzing innovations and bettering worker-manager relations at almost all manufacturing giants in the country.

Spurring this metamorphosis is competition, since firms are being forced to redefine the rules as they whip up performance and shave costs.  No longer is manufacturing best done by breaking a process down to its smallest, repeatable component, as the Industrial Revolution lay down.  Successive technological revolutions since then have transformed production processes in almost every industry, smokestack or green.

Nor are workers best employed as cogs in the giant manufacturing gearshift any more; educated and skilled, they can be vital resources in the value chain if properly managed.  Increasingly, companies are beginning to realize that clubbed into shall work groups, workers can be far more productive than the sum of their individual initiatives.  Motivated teams exotically labeled Kshitij, Avishkar, Alpha, Delta and X-14 FA are revolutionizing the workplace today.

At Philips India, employees are regarded as collaborators.  Says CEO H.J.J. Rensma, 64: ¨I would like to do away with the distinction between workers and managers〃.  Adds Hari Rao, vice-president in charge of manufacturing, Titan Industries: ¨Worker is too restrictive a term for today's employee.  It implies someone from whom you buy just muscle power〃.  Says IFB Industries CEO Bijon Nag, 51, who shares letters from customers demanding price cuts with his workers: ¨The days of assembly-line production are over〃.  Instead, firms are trading traditional tasks for team empowerment and winning.

Modi Xerox was one of the first corporates to kick off the team movement, setting up six continuous quality improvement teams four years ago.  That number had gone up to 28 by last year.  Now, team-formation is so structured at Modi Xerox that the company has a Blue Book, which defines the areas that cross-functional teams can address.

Impressed by a visit to the production facilities to Japanese manufacturing giants Toshiba and Hitachi, Videocon International direct Pradip Dhoot, 32, has instituted radical changes in his shop floor.  At the company’s plant at Aurangabad (Maharashtra), workers have been divided into four independent business units, which compete with each other in attaining targets.

The most common, and closest, ancestor of the team in the factory is the quality circle.  While TISCO has set up close to 100 quality circles, TELCO has about 2,000 quality circles in Jamshedpur (Bihar) alone.  In addition, both organize several small group activities on the shop floor.

Elevator giant Otis, which started with a few pilot quality circles in 1991, now has 10 quality teams.  After hiring teams consultant to talk to employees, Otis sponsored leadership and facilitator courses, as well as programmes in group relations, to ensure that it was adequately prepared to form teams.

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Voltas uses cross-functional teams as part of its quality control systems.  And as the concept catches on, companies are sharing data.  While Philips is borrowing concepts and ideas from Hindustan Lever’s use of teams for logistics management, successful Philips teams have made presentations to workers at Chloride India and INDAL.

Six months ago, pharmaceuticals giant Ranbaxy Laboratories introduced cross-functional task forces to work on priority areas like new product development, succession planning, waste management, career planning and maintenance; it now has 21 such teams.  In line with the company’s top-down approach, these teams are made up of managers and supervisory ...

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