Increasing Profitability by increasing worker autonomy


A big question that managers and employees alike are always asking is “how can we be more profitable?” Researchers have begun to examine that same question. Specifically, they are investigation the impact of increased inventory levels on productivity. Productivity is directly related to profitability For the purpose of this study, productivity is defined as the number of work units successfully processes in a given period of time. It has historically been assumed that the average processing time per unit is solely driven by the task requirements when the type of units and a given production system remain the same. Therefore, the average processing time per unit should be constant across multiple units of the same type.

However, recent studies have revealed that the average processing times are more directly related to worker autonomy. High worker autonomy causes the employees feel empowered to modify the set of work tasks performed on a unit, and the speed with which these tasks are performed. Therefore, if an employee notices that a particular task takes twice as long as another task, the employees can work together and assign two people to the task that takes twice as long to complete. Because the employees are observant of the work they are doing, they are able to avoid system flaws that may cause a bottleneck effect.

Another common error of managers who are not very mindful of the worker autonomy is increasing inventory in a set system without increasing the staff. A mistake such as this could potentially impact productivity by decreasing yield rates while increasing product flaws. If workers feel that their work is being rushed, they are more likely to make mistakes, which will affect the quality of the final product.

If we consider our finger puppet operation that was conducted in class, we will remember that nearly have of the finish products were sub-par quality according to our judges. I believe the sub-par quality of the puppets was a direct result of the pressure our workers received from their manager. Furthermore, our employees did not feel empowered to help their fellow workers when they noticed a built up of inventory.

Had the workers felt empowered to improve they assembly line structure, worker one may have helped worker two with her duties. This would have reduced, or even eliminated the bottleneck conflict. Also, worker one would have been making better use of her time by avoiding sitting idle.

After observing the finger puppet demonstration in class, would you agree that high worker autonomy is a smart practice to follow in all assembly line operations?

Why would a manager a not want to increase worker autonomy?

Are there some operation systems that work better with high worker autonomy?
What are some examples?
Why would these systems be better with high worker autonomy than others?

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