Case: BARRIERS? WHAT BARRIERS? The general manager of an elevator company had a common problem: He w


Case: BARRIERS? WHAT BARRIERS?

The general manager of an elevator company had a common problem: He was utterly frustrated with the lack of cooperation between the mechanical engineers who designed new elevators, and the manufacturing engineers would often completely design a new elevator without any consultation from the manufacturing designers, and then expect the factory to somehow figure out how to build it (This is known as “throwing it over the wall” to manufacturing)

Often the new products were difficult or nearly impossible to build, and their quality and cost suffered as a result The designs were usually sent back to the mechanical engineers (often more than once) for engineering changes to improve their manufacturability While designers and manufacturers played volleyball with the design, customers were forced to wait – often for months – for deliveries

The general manager knew that if the two sets of engineers would simply communicate early in the design process, many of these problems could be eliminated before they occurred At his wits’ end, he found a large empty room in the facility and had the mechanical and manufacturing engineers working on the next product moved into the room, one group on one side and one on the other Certainly if all they had to do to communicate was to walk from one side of the room to the other, communication would improve

The manager relaxed somewhat, feeling that his problem had finally been solved Upon returning to the new home of the engineers a few weeks later, he was in for a big surprise The two sets of engineers had finally learned to cooperate! They had cooperated in building a wall of bookcases and file cabinets right down the middle of the room, effectively separating the large room into two separate offices, so they could continue as before

Discussion Questions

1 What principles of total quality are illustrated or violated in this case?

2 Why do people feel such strong allegiance to their functional departments?

3 What could the general manager have done to improve the communication and the quality of the designs?

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