A report is based on my personal visit to a factory of the Mazak company, based in Worcester. The aim of this work is to evaluate processes within the company and to identify whether it is using Fordist practise or not. Mazak is privately owned by a Japanese family named Yamazaki. It is the world largest producer of sophisticated computer numerical control tools (CMC). It has 8 factories in places such as USA, Japan, UK, China and Pacific Rim. It employs around 6000 staff around the world.
In the Worcester factory it employs around 500 people plus a number of contract workers. The company manufactures an extensive variety of products, and generates sales of over ? 3. 5bn per annum. It operates within in a highly competitive and dynamic market. 2. HR policies: People are the key factor for success for every organisation, it is people who make things work, who can bring ideas to life; on the other hand they can, of course, destroy an excellent business. Mazak has several HR policies which were introduced to keep their staffs interests fulfilled and to maintain motivation.
Stable employment: ‘Perhaps the most widely publicized aspect of personnel management in Japan is the provision of lifetime employment’ (Oliver and Wilkinson 1992: p. 43). Mazak is no exception; a policy of stable employment is one of the main HR policies within the company. Business is managed in a way to ensure that every worker is confident that their job is secure. The number of contractors and temporary employees varies, but the permanent staff retain their positions. Performance based salaries:
Permanent personnel at the Mazak factory have an opportunity to regulate their salary, because it is linked to their performance. Such a policy builds strong loyalty for the company and also increases employee performance. It is applied only to permanent personnel, and not the contractors and temporary staff. Single Status Policy: The Company’s principle is that everyone should be treated in the same way, whether it is a permanent employee, temporary or contractor. Whilst walking through a site you will not be able to distinguish who has permanent and temporary contracts.
Everybody uses the same parking, same uniform, same rest areas and work in the same departments. Teamwork and individuals: As in every organisation teamwork is essential to achieve company’s goals which are common for different members; however every team is built from a number of individuals. In an organisation such as Mazak, individuals play the most significant role in the company’s development. This is because the company deals with high technology products and needs strongly motivated people with good attitude and ambitions.
Mazak tend to employ not so much highly skilled people, but rather those who have a strong will to work and develop the company’s products and its environment. This policy is delivering good progress for the company, however it is very hard to manage highly motivated people. The main reason for this is that highly motivated people are more demanding and they are always looking for development within the company. There is strong mutual commitment between individuals and company which generates great results and ideas.
To keep individuals interested in their work a company provides an opportunity for career growth. Promotion is a common thing within the company, 10 from 12 managers have been promoted internally. Also the company provides constant training and development for their staff, to improve understanding and performance on the existing job as well as teaching new skills. There are various methods of training which are identified through regular discussions with managers. All training actively involves members of staff in development and expressing ideas; not just through the provision of information.
Employment concepts: To achieve company’s goals and to be successful Mazak treats people as its most valuable resource and like any resource they should be selected with care and managed with respect to maximise contribution. There are several policies personnel employment policies in Mazak. For example the company does not use agencies to employ staff for permanent positions or to employ contractors. There are several reasons for this, firstly agencies are an additional cost and second the company has its own internal labour market.
Only temporary staff are employed through agencies; but they are not a part of the Mazak company. Temporary staff form the peripheral workforce and are used to provide numerical flexibility; the concept of which was explained in the work of Tailby(2003). Problems of cultural difference: Japan and England are totally different countries in different parts of the world, one is purely western and the other one is Eastern. People living in England and in Japan have a totally different culture, they were brought up in a different way and as a result they have different ideas, customs and expectations.
To perform successfully in Britain, the local culture was studied and the companies policies were changed to match people’s expectations in Britain, however there is a mixture of cultures on the company’s site. 3. Production Line: There are several departments on a production line, which are separated into different functional areas, with different workstations and teams. Machines at Mazak are transported by monorail, however they are not built on the production line formed by a single action assembly line as used in producing of cars, but only being transported from one workstation to another.
This differentiates it from companies using Fordist practice, as they are producing their products on single moving assembly line. They are not producing such a large volume of products, instead the volume is very small due to a high level of technological advancement and sophistication of products. This means that the company is not operating a pure Fordist practise which suggests big volume of low quality products as mentioned in the work of Edgel(2006). People who work on a production line are mainly multi-skilled, but there are several specialists who are trained to do one particular task.
This concept is much different from the concept of Fordism were the main idea is that personnel are deskilled and everyone is trained to do his/her small component of the production. There are several features of the Japanese – style management system, explained in the work of Graham(2005), are being used in Mazak’s production line; such features as continuous improvement, highly standardised and recorded work processes and just – in – time production. We will discuss them further on. Quality management and continuous improvement:
Quality is a very important issue for every company, and Japanese companies are especially known for their quality control. There are several quality control schemes at the Mazak, such as EPOST system control, Kaizen competition, quality check team; the main feature is simple and effective communication between management and employees. EPOST system is an electronic system of control over personnel workplaces, it has several different functions one of which is the control of quality and production errors. All the data from EPOST is carefully processed and transferred to management.
Every section on a production line has a board, where all the quality issues are posted, lists of errors and data regarding the quality control of the team is printed to be discussed for further development of solutions on product quality. Also there is a kaizen competition every year, where employees from all the factories can present their ideas on further development of production system and quality control, however this policy is not as effective as simple communication between production personnel and management.
There is an opportunity for everyone to freely express his/her ideas; the company wants individual opinions on the production process. The firm is maintained and developed not by a single eureka idea, but with a lot of small personal opinions. This concept is called continuous improvement and is implemented in a many companies with a Japanese style management system. ‘By incorporating continuous improvement as a company mission and then contractually binding workers to comply with that mission, JSMS moves a step beyond Taylorism in its attempt to gain control over a orker’s creative knowledge’(Graham 2005: p. 351). The idea of this company is that quality should be mainly built in rather than inspected in, but nevertheless at the end of production there is a group of people who test completed machines, and pre-program them for further use. EPOST system – a form of workplace control: ‘It is this order of attention to detail which tends to separate the Japanese from many British manufacturers. ’(Danford 1998: p. 50) In Mazak every aspect of employee’s and suppliers work is controlled by an electronic system, called EPOST.
This system enables the company to control their staff, individuals to control their break time and production tasks and also facilitates the order of equipment from suppliers on a ‘just in time’ basis. Every employee, logs on to the systems when they arrives; it will show the schedule of work for the day, and break times. Employees at Mazak are able to choose their break times, this policy is makes the employee feel that he is being treated in a special, personal way, not like just a tool.
There is no actual bell – to – bell policy at Mazak, breaks are not signaled by sound of a horn or a bell, but it is regulated by EPOST. System stops production processes as soon as time of the break arrives and automatically starts production when the break is finished, so by the end of it everybody should in the right place exactly on time. Another issue which is being solved by EPOST is stock ordering and control, ‘the concept remains central to managerialist presentations of efficient , waste-free Japanese production practice. (Danford 1998: p. 47) EPOST is connected to an online ordering system, and regulates ordering times and amounts. As it contains the programmed schedule for machines and workers, it knows exactly when and what to order, to have spare parts exactly on time for the production. All the parts are delivered in as small a volume as possible; which is one of the key principles of lean production stated by Womack. It makes production easier and cheaper, and solves one of the main issues which is spare parts holding costs.
This concept is different from Fordist practice where spare parts are held on the company’s premises and production was on just-in-case basis, rather than just-in-time. 4. Conclusion: Mazak is a very well managed company, which is working with a neo-fordist practice. Even though there are a lot of aspects of production which are much different from the traditional Fordist organization still they are involve such principles as division of production into simple tasks which are produced by individuals.
However individuals in Mazak are not that deskilled, even though every member of personnel are working with particular routine tasks on an everyday basis, they are trained to be multi-skilled, to be able to perform different tasks and those tasks are not very simple; often because production of very sophisticated products, requires a highly trained workforce.
5. Reference: Danford A. (1998) Work Organisation Inside Japanese Firms in South Wales: A Break from Taylorism. In: Thompson P. , Warhurst C. (eds. ) Workplace of the future. Basingstoke, Macmillan Publishers Limited, pp. 0-64. Edgell S. (2006) Fordism: its Rise, Development ;amp; Demise. In: Edgell S. (ed. ) The sociology of work. London, Sage Publication Limited, pp. 73-83. Graham L. (2005) Manual workers: conflict and control. In: Ackroyd S. , Batt R. , Thompson P. , Tolbert P. (eds. ) The Oxford handbook of work and organization. New York, Oxford University Press, pp. 338-355 Oliver N. , Wilkinson B. (1992) The Japanization of British Industry. 2nd Edition. London, Blackwell. Tailby S, Hollinshead G. , Nicholls P. (2003) Employee Relations. 2nd edition. Harlow, Pearson Education Limited.