Teams and teamwork are a theme in the 1992 Best Plants award-winning Wilson Sporting Goods Company's Humboldt facility. The plant turns out some 96 million golf balls a year. Nearly 66 percent of the workers have enlisted in formal teams that tackle problems and exploit opportunities for improvement. Many are headed by hourly associates, and they're authorized to spend up to $500 on projects without the need for management approval.
At Humboldt, the managers and supervisors tend to think of themselves as coaches rather than bosses.
The team atmosphere has helped transform the plant into one of Wilson's finest. Between 1985, when the company consolidated all of its golf-ball production in Humboldt, and 1992, its market share climbed from two percent to 17 percent.
Five "guiding principles" underpin the formula for world-class competitiveness: continuous improvement, associate involvement, total quality management, just-in-time techniques to eliminate waste, and a focus on lowest total cost manufacturing.
Humboldt's "special order" business-customized and personalized golf-balls mushroomed from 185,000 dozen in 1985 to nearly two million dozen in 1992.
Another goal is the reduction of manufacturing losses. With associate involvement and use of the Demos Control Chart System, which integrates and pyramids plantwide quality data, the plant achieved a 67 percent reduction in scrap and rework between 1985 and 1992.
A supplier-partnership program has reduced the cost of holding inventory.
Communication is critical to such teamwork. At quarterly "State of the Plant" meetings, the associates get an update on finances, as well as a review of their performance on quality and other measures.