Motorola Inc. placed a huge bet on Chinas economic future six years ago when it opened a pager manufacturing plant in Tianjin, a port city about a 90-minute drive southeast of Beijing. And, judging from the eagerness that that facilitys 1,000 employees have shown in embracing team concepts, it was a wager that should produce a substantial long-term payback. The Tianjin plant was well represented at the worldwide finals of Motorolas employee team competition in Orlando this year with four entries among the 24 finalist teams. And one of those teams -- nicknamed ROOTS -- walked off with the diamond award, the grand prize in the companys total customer satisfaction (TCS) team competition. "The team competition has taken off like crazy in China," says Chuck Blazevich, director of the TCS program and also director of quality for Motorolas Business Systems Div. "In the Tianjin plant, 80% to 90% of the employees are now on teams." ROOTS, the winning team, impressed the judges in Orlando with its efforts to boost the local content of paging devices produced in Tianjin. Representing the sourcing-operations unit, it employed three basic strategies to help develop 63 local supplier companies: providing "cross-sector" support for existing suppliers; relocating high-tech suppliers to China; and finding and developing new local suppliers. "We like to have suppliers located nearer to our factory," explains Lee Keng Sim, general manager of the Tianjin Paging Operations, who served as a mentor to the winning team along with Janet Robinson, Motorolas Singapore-based regional sourcing manager for Asia. The benefits of having suppliers in close proximity, Lee explains, include reduced procurement time and shorter total cycle time. "Also," he points out, "if there is a quality problem, it is easier to work with your suppliers to solve the problem if they are located nearby." Halfway around the world, in Monterrey, Mexico, friends and co-workers of the EAGLES team from a Kemet Electronics Corp. ceramic capacitors plant were celebrating that facilitys first-place finish in a similar competition for supplier-company teams. The supplier competition, which was started in 1996, this year attracted 134 team entries. Of those, 54 advanced to the regional level and three qualified for the world finals in Orlando -- the Monterrey team, as well as teams from Germany and Asia. "For supplier teams, we conduct three regional showcases -- we dont call them competitions," notes Katharine Sullivan, a Motorola vice president and corporate director of supply management. "We encourage suppliers to form as many teams as possible within their companies and to enter the TCS showcases." Several supplier companies, she adds, now conduct their own internal TCS competitions and send the winning teams to compete in Motorolas regional events. Motorola, which views team activity as a way to "institutionalize quality at a personal level," paid the travel expenses to Orlando for the supplier finalists. "Its our way of saying thank you for all their hard work," Sullivan says. The Monterrey plant, operated by Greenville, S.C.-based Kemet Electronics Corp., has 2,000 employees, all of whom are involved in team projects, notes Ed Raygada, plant manager. "We have 2,000 employees and 2,000 teams," he says. "But they arent one-person teams. Most of our employees participate in multiple teams. You can be a leader of one team and a member of another team. Our goal is to have every employee serving on five teams." The winning EAGLES team used a variety of analytical techniques -- including failure mode effects analysis -- to develop a solution to a recurring quality problem with surface-mount ceramic capacitors. After implementing a statistical-process-control system, along with a new sealing method, quality-related complaints dropped to zero for a five-month period. In addition, scrap costs, downtime, and spare parts costs were reduced dramatically. Elated at winning the supplier competition, Raygada expects the award "will help to consolidate our efforts in Monterrey. It means that what weve been doing has been recognized by one of the most successful companies on the planet. It firms up our belief that we are going in the right direction." "Teaming is the foundation of what we do at Kemet Electronics," asserts Bill Johnson, the firms corporate vice president-sales. "Today, quality is a given. The big question is: How do you differentiate yourself in the commodity electronics business? We thought the answer was to form partnerships with a handful of key accounts -- like Motorola." When Motorola initiated the TCS competition in 1990, most of the 2,000 participating teams were from its manufacturing units. Since then, the number of entries has more than doubled -- and the nature of the teams has evolved. Participants in the Orlando event included numerous cross-functional teams, as well as teams representing disciplines such as design engineering, customer-support, and even the administrative and executive ranks back at Motorolas Schaumburg, Ill., headquarters. The WURLD CLASS SURFN team, for example, was a cross-functional group from headquarters that included customer and supplier representatives. It developed a common Internet-based infrastructure -- linked to a Motorola Web site -- to support the global collection, consolidation, and distribution of financial information. One result: Financial analysts who track Motorolas performance now have "real-time" access to the companys latest financial data. A design engineering unit from Plantation, Fla., representing the firms Land Mobile Products Sector, reached the finals by virtue of its development of a low-cost, low-battery-drain, liquid-crystal-display unit for the TalkAbout two-way radio. The team TNT TWISTED NEMATIC used a predictive software modeling tool to evaluate potential solutions, leading to development of a new technology that came in well below the cost target. Two U.S. patents are pending for the TNT technology.