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Improving the quality of work within an organizational setting may sometimes be a very challenging process. As shown in the case of Tokai Shinei, many firms are often quick to source solutions from external sources whenever they are faced with internal operational problems. There is always the feeling that the external experts have unique capabilities to address internal problems in the most appropriate manner.
However, the case study presented shows that a real solution can only come from the internal stakeholders within the firm, not the external experts. These internal stakeholders understand what affects their operational activities, and when allowed to be part of the solution, they can easily find the most appropriate ways addressing their challenges. The case of Tokai Shinei demonstrates this fact. It shows how the three pillars of housekeeping, self-discipline, and standards helped in transforming the company from a sluggish firm with low profitability rates to an efficient company that understands how to lower the cost of operations in order to increase its profitability. In this paper, the focus is to discuss how Tokai Shinei used its own team of employees to set standards and address the internal challenges to help the firm achieve the desired success in the market.
The Tokai Shinei Electronics case study focuses on how a small struggling electronic company used housekeeping, self-discipline, and standards to transform its operations into an efficient and successful firm. The management started by identifying the main challenges that the firm was facing in its operations. At first, there was an attempt to use external experts (consultants) to solve the identified problems.
However, it became apparent that the approach was not yielding the desired outcome. That is why the management shifted its approach to its internal stakeholders. Through housekeeping, the team ensured that the premises remained clean, everyone was responsible, and employees interacted regularly away from their workplace. They now feel that they are responsible for the sanitation of their workplace environment. Through self-discipline, it became easier for the management to control the employees and ensure that they work as per the set guidelines. The introduction of standards helped in ensuring that the work done by every employee was predictable and can easily be understood by other employees within the firm. It has also reduced reliance on veteran employees.
Tokai Shinei Electronics is an upcoming electronics company that employs slightly over one hundred employees. The company is located in the North of Nagoya, Japan, and its current chief executive officer and President is Yoshihito Tanaka. The company started out as a supplier of printed circuit boards to one company. However, it was able to achieve growth rapidly within a very short time and currently, it has a number of customers not only in the local town but in other markets beyond Nagoya. The president of this company has been keen on ensuring that the firm not only expands its market size but also improves its efficiency in operation to lower the cost of production and improve on the quality of the products. Tokai Shinei Electronics relies on the local population as its primary source of the workforce.
The president of this company appreciates the need for working closely with the locals instead of hiring external experts. Through consistency in training and motivation, the president of this company has been able to transform the workforce of this company from a slow, inconsistent, and unreliable team to a very effective workforce whose activities are predictable and meets the set standards.
The case study about Tokai Shinei identifies a number of problems that this company had to deal with to achieve the desired level of success in such a competitive market environment. One of the main problems that President Yoshihito Tanaka pointed out was the inability to get highly educated employees. Most of the workers at the company had limited levels of knowledge about a number of fundamental factors that defined their work. Attempts to hire external experts to train these employees were futile. Most of these external experts reported that the employees of this organization lacked the basic knowledge that would form the basis of in-house training. It meant that Tokai Shinei Electronics had to find an internal solution to this problem.
The level of cleanliness within the company was another major concern for the president. This was not a problem unique to this company because the case shows that public utilities within the small town also faced cleanliness problems. However, it was affecting the operations at the firm, especially on the issue of housekeeping. Most of the employees had to use boots, not because the nature of their work required such attire, but because of poor hygiene that made it necessary for them to ensure that they are safe. The level of discipline within the firm was also below the desirable levels. Some of the employees could not stand receiving instructions or being corrected by their superiors. Managing the workforce was particularly challenging because the employees did not value and respect the authority.
President Yoshihito Tanaka also noted that there was always a slow-start of work in the early morning hours. As time progressed, the work would compile, and in the evening when employees are about to leave, the productivity would increase. After a careful analysis, it was noted that the systems within the firm were not properly matched. It was apparent that the firm had spent a lot on improving the quality of the employees without giving equal attention to the machines and systems that employees use. The mismatch between the quality of the workforce and the structures within the workplace was responsible for the sluggish progression noted. It was also apparent that there was a lack of standardization in terms of the operations of the employees. It was difficult to predict how an employee would undertake a given activity because of the lack of standards.
President Yoshihito Tanaka remained committed to finding lasting solutions to the problems that Tokai Shinei Electronics faced. The solution, as presented in the case, is summarized as housekeeping, self-discipline, and Standards. The company introduced a unique housekeeping strategy that helped in transforming its operations. From the top manager to the junior-most employee, a new strategy where everyone took the first 15 minutes before the official work-hours to clean the premises and the environs was embraced. The team ensured that the entire premise remained clean at all times as a sign of being organized.
The strategy was helpful in promoting teamwork among the employees as they interacted more often than before during the time of cleaning the compound. The company also started mutual learning sessions every weekend instead of relying on external experts to train the employees. Through such forums, employees would discuss the challenges they face at work and propose ways in which they believe their issues can be addressed. The approach also instilled confidence among the employees, making them believe that they have the capacity to address the issues that affect their operations.
Self-discipline was also introduced at the firm to ensure that management activities are not jeopardized by a team of workers who do not respect the authority. The firm introduced systems where each employee understood his or her relationship with other employees and superiors. Instead of using threats and warnings, the managers only would remind the junior employees of their mandate within the firm whenever it was necessary. Every employee understood what was expected of him or her making the work of the managers simpler than it was before. The firm also introduced standards. Instead of allowing the employees to operate as they please, the team decided to come up with a common standard to define how each activity was undertaken. The approach helped in ensuring that the work done by one employee can easily be understood by another employee because of the clear patterns.
The case study clearly shows that the success of a firm largely relies on its internal operations. In many cases, firms struggle to find solutions from external sources while the truth is that they can address their problems internally. Tokai Shinei wasted a lot of time seeking a solution from the external sources that did not prove helpful. When it focused on its internal operations, it was able to overcome most of the challenges that were affecting its operations.
It was able to lower its cost of production, hence increasing its profitability. It was finally able to conquer major production and marketing problems that it had faced for a very long time, making it able to compete favorably in the market. The case study strongly suggests that believing in the internal capabilities of a firm- especially the employees- can help overcome the challenges faced in the market. It restores confidence among the employees and promotes their commitment to delivering the best services in their places of work. Setting standards makes it possible to monitor the employees’ activities and their possible output.