Redesigning Work at Luxury Sweets*
Preparation and Challenge
Familiarize yourself with the case situation below and develop briefing notes to support a group consultancy exercise in class. You have been invited to join a team of management consultants by the Human Resource Director of Luxury Sweets Ltd. This individual is frustrated by the everyday challenges of managerial fire-fighting, and is keen to find effective means of addressing recurring production and employee relations problems on the shop floor. Your group has been asked to capture relevant information and insights from academic research, and to offer a collective view and suitable guidance on appropriate ways forward. You are expected, as a group, to identify priorities, provide an action plan for the organization of work, comment on likely obstacles to progress, and suggest options for handling any adverse reactions from line managers, supervisors or employees. You should be aware that the budget for this initiative is limited to just a few thousand pounds Sterling, and precludes any investment in automation or major change to the fabric of the building. Your case notes include references to the opinions volunteered by various employees, supervisors and managers. Their reactions should be kept in mind as you present the results of your deliberations to the company representative (your Tutor). Your group will be expected to justify the points you make in the presentation and to give reasons why Luxury Sweets should act on your advice. The Company
The Luxury Sweets Company manufactures highly quality confectionary. It is a medium-sized, family-owned, partially unionized producer, based in East-Central Scotland. The case exercise is set within the main production facility, which is connected to the management and administration block by a glass corridor and to warehouse areas for raw materials and finished products by a series of sensor operated double doors. The Context and Nature of the Work
Forty different types of hard-boiled sweets are produced and packed in a batch-production basis. The shop floor is divided into two separate areas, one for production staffed by men and one for packing staffed exclusively by women. These areas are separated by a physical barrier that allows the packing room to be air conditioned and protected from the humidity resulting from production. Management believed this was necessary to stop the sweets from sweating (thus sticking to their wrappers) during storage. Each room has a supervisor who reports to the departmental manager, who himself is responsible to the factory manager. In total 37 people work in the department (25 in production and 12 in packing) the majority of whom are skilled employees. Training takes place on the job and it normally takes two years to acquire the skills necessary to complete all the production tasks. Figure 1 presents an outline of the physical layout of the department and the work-flow.
The production process is essentially quite simple. Raw materials, principally sugar, are boiled to a set temperature with ‘cooking time’ varying from line to line. The resulting batches are worked on by employees who fold and manipulate them to create the required texture, while adding colouring and flavourings (‘slabbing and mixing’), Different batches are moulded together to create the flavour mixes and patterns required (this is the make up stage). The batch, which by now is quite cool, is then extruded through a machine which cuts it into sweets of individual size. Some products at this stage are automatically wrapped and then passed by conveyor belt to the packing room where they are inspected, bagged and boxed ready for despatch to retail and wholesale outlets. Other products progress unwrapped into the packing room where they are fed into wrapping machines, inspected, bagged and despatched. Several different product lines can be produced at the same time. The most...
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