IW Best Plants Profile - 1994

Sony Electronics Incorporated's San Diego Manufacturing Center (SDMC), home of the Trinitron picture-tube and color television set assembly, is a 1994 Best Plants award winner. Just five years earlier-in August 1989-the executive committee of the Sony Display Tube Company (SDTC), one of four operating divisions at the an Diego location, had met to change its top-down approach to management and problem solving. Changes were needed. Absenteeism, for example, was almost seven percent, turnover was four to six percent per month, and the division was unprofitable.

The committee introduced a program of redesign to a "high-performance work system" based on participatory management. The effort began with high-profile trials, attacking two of the most troublesome problems at the time: 100 percent per year employee turnover in the chemical mixing area, and jealousies and family problems related to a new shift-assignment schedule. Employee teams met both challenges.

The success of these initial efforts sparked expansion of the concept, resulting in the formation of a support team of employee volunteers to guide the change.

To learn how other teams operate, SDTC support-team members visited Clark Equipment Company, Sherwin-Williams, and other companies.

The San Diego site has now become "our most profitable and cost-competitive maker of Trinitron tubes," says Stephen Burke, vice president of business planning. Measures of comparison prove the point. One example: In 1990 cathode-ray tube production was 1,395 per employee. By 1993, it had jumped to 2,474 per employee.

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