The Treadway Tire Foreman (And Other) Problems

Treadway Tire has a really big problem, it can’t seem to keep its foreman.  In fact, in 2007 they had almost a 50% turnover of the foreman on staff.

While I know it is easy to Monday morning quarterback and look at the Treadway Tire case from a 500 foot view (when the plant manager is just at ground level), but it seems to me that it should have been clear what the main problems and solutions were with respect to the foreman turnover.  

 Main Problems at Treadway Tires:

The foreman have:

  • Too many responsibilities overall
  • Relatively no training—for new or existing foremen
  • No authority, but a lot of responsibility—because the company is a union shop, the foreman really has very little control over his/her staff and his/her disciplinary decisions are overridden by disciplinary groups
  • Daily production evaluations—some of the variations in the production quantity/quality, specifically as it relates to machines breaking down, were not in the foreman’s control
  • No real career path—only one foreman was promoted to general supervisor in 2007. 

The company has:

  • A non-productive work schedule (12 hours)—with just 2 short breaks and a half hour for a meal, it  seems like a miracle that any of the tires produced at the end of the shift make it through quality control.  I am really hoping that I don’t have Treadway tires on my car that were made at the end of a shift!
  • An “us” versus “them” relationship distance between foremen and the general and area supervisor
  • Conflicting staff management expectations—be your staff’s friend, but rule with an iron fist
  • A relatively high number of external people (college graduates) hired as foremen—these individuals have the highest turnover (75%)

 Some additional interesting information about the case:

  • In the example exit interview, the person rated pay and benefits as “excellent”, but person left anyway.  So it is clear that Treadway is not going to be able to throw money at this problem and have it go away
  • Bellingham put the training on hold due to mandatory budget cuts in 2007.  Now I am sure that if they could get the turnover problem fixed, they would be running at a budget surplus
  • Employees are most dissatisfied with the statement “I feel prepared to accomplish duties of my job”—why isn’t that scaring the crap out of management?  Seventy-five percent of employees said they don’t feel like they are prepared to accomplish the duties of their job.

 So now that I have shown everything that I believe to be wrong—I would recommend the following fixes for Treadway Tire:

  • Hold general supervisors and area supervisors accountable for foreman turnover
  • Switch to bi-weekly production reports—by lengthen the time between evaluations, foreman would be able to “catch up” when machines break down for long periods of time and when hourly workers call out sick as a measure of retribution
  • Focus on enacting the mentoring program—this will likely lessen the “us” versus “them” mentality and keep the more senior staff aware of the real problems happening on the floor
  • Review and enact a revised working schedule—while this recommendation might not be possible given that this is a union shop, it seems to me that this could work
  • Put together an employee advisory board—this group would be made up on both salaried and hourly employees and would evaluate and help develop employee improvement suggestions
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