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CRITICAL THINKING CASE
Northern Industries has asked you to help it resolve some racial issues that,according to president Jim Fishers, are ³ festering ³ in their manufacturing plant inSpringfield, Massachusetts. Northern Industries is a family owned enterprise thatmanufactures greeting cards and paper and plastic holiday decorations. It employees125 people full time, including some African - Americans and Asians. About 80percent of the full time work force is females. During the peak production month of September and January (to produce orders primarily for Christmas/Hanukkah andMother¶s Day ) , the company runs a second shift and adds about 50 part-timeworkers , most of whom are also women and minorities.
All orders are filled with batch runs made to customer specifications. In aperiod of a week, filling seventy different orders requiring different paper stock, inks, plastics, and set ups isn¶t unusual. Since these orders vary greatlyin size. The company has a long term policy of giving priority to high volumecustomers and processing other orders on a first come first serve basis. Half adozen of the company¶s largest customers have been doing business withnorthern for more than twenty years. Having been singed up by Jim Fisher¶sfather (now retired ) to begin your orientation to the company. Fisher asks hisProduction Manager, Walter Beacon, to take you around the plant. Beaconpoints out the production areas responsible for each step in the manufactureof a greeting card, from purchasing to printing to quality control to shipping.The plant is clean, but the two large printing rooms - each of which is theworkplace for about twenty-five workers. ± are quiet noisy. You catchsnatches of employees conversations, but you cant figure out what languagethey are speaking. In the shipping and receiving department you notice thatmost workers are African ± American, Beacon confirms that eight out to ten of the workers in that department are African ± American men, as is their boss, Adam Wright.
Jim fisher had agreed that you could attend a meeting of top management to get afeel for the problems facing the company. The president introduces you and notesthat several of his managers have expressed concerns about certain problems. Hesays that one of these problems is that ³ each of the minority groups sticks together.The African ± Americans and Orientals rarely mix. ³ another recent problem has been³ the theft of finished products , specially on the second shift, and we had to fire aThai worker.´
Then Fisher described what he recently had read about ³self directed teams´and the success of these teams at San Diago Zoo and Kodack,. He statedthat implementing such a concept at Northen would require a lot of employeetraining in different functions. Such as printing, shipping and quality control togive all employee an understanding of how their job affect those of others in