Rl Wolfe: Implementing Self-Directed Teams

4618 words 19 pages
REV: DECEMBER 15, 2009


RL Wolfe: Implementing Self-Directed Teams
On a clear day in May 2007, John Amasi looked down on the city of Corpus Christi, Texas, as his plane approached the airport. As director of Production and Engineering at RL Wolfe—a $350M privately held plastic pipe manufacturer headquartered in Houston, Texas—he was looking forward to visiting the company’s plant in the city. Four years previously, in 2003, when RL Wolfe had purchased Moon Plastics—a small, familyowned custom plastics manufacturer in Corpus Christi—Amasi had seen an opportunity to implement self-directed teams (SDTs) at the new plant. He had been interested in SDTs for several years, since taking a business
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Corpus Christi, a 300,000 square-foot facility, ran four extrusion lines 24 hours a day over three shifts (7 AM to 3 PM; 3 PM to 11 PM; and 11 PM to 7 AM). The strong hum on the factory floor was punctuated by the hiss of cooling pipe. Each shift required 27 floor workers, with most of the activity focused on bringing raw materials to the hoppers, running the lines, and transporting pipe away from the finishing lines.

Corpus Christi in 2004: Moving Toward a Self-Directed Work Force
Back in 2003, Amasi and Winslow had asked the managers of Wolfe’s Austin, Texas, and Columbus, Ohio, plants to join them on the Corpus Christi implementation team. The four met in Corpus Christi for three days of planning meetings addressing job definitions, hiring, team setup and responsibilities, and the role of the coordinator.

Job Definitions
For Corpus Christi, Amasi and Winslow strongly advocated pushing aside the job distinctions and roles currently in place at Wolfe’s two unionized plants and creating semi-autonomous work teams in their place. The Austin and Columbus plant managers provided similar descriptions of the traditional roles at their plants.

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First, plant contracts with the 62,000-member Glass, Molders, Pottery, Plastics & Allied Workers International Union and other unions divided workers into two