One advantage of starting over is that you get to design the entire production facility, from its
location to the new workers to the suppliers. For instance, Cessna does most of its production in
Wichita, Kansas. But Wichita mostly produces a small number of highly customized jets each year,
just the opposite of high numbers of standardized, single-engine planes. So the new single-engine
plane factory was located in nearby Independence, Kansas. In a more radical step, especially for a
conservative-minded company like Cessna, was the decision to use teams to assemble Skyhawks
rather than the traditional production line. In an incredible departure from the engineering-based
standards in which the motions of every worker on the assembly line are studied for time, cost, and
efficiency implications, production teams would be completely responsible for assembling the planes,
for costs, and for quality.
In selecting workers to team-build the Skyhawk, Cessna focused exclusively on team skills. If
tests indicated that you weren’t a “team player” with an aptitude and willingness to take on
responsibility and work with others, Cessna didn’t hire you. However, Cessna had trouble finding
experienced manufacturing workers. In fact, most of the people Cessna hired to work in the plant had
never worked in a manufacturing setting before. In terms of team level, the average ability on a team,
Cessna’s production teams was extraordinarily good in terms of being strong team players, but
extraordinarily bad in terms of manufacturing experience. Cessna was hoping it could quickly train its
workers in manufacturing, but that took much longer than expected. For instance, Cessna hoped to
produce 1,000 single-engine planes in the factory’s first year. But due of worker inexperience, it only
produced 360 planes that year. It took four years to reach the annual goal.
Cessna’s single-engine production teams had no experience, so the company brought in 60
retirees who had built Skyhawks before. These mentors worked with teams, gradually instilling
confidence, and increasing production speed without sacrificing quality, such that they could also
refocus learning how to resolve team conflict, solve problems, and increase flexibility. Eventually,
Cessna’s production teams will be highly skilled at manufacturing and teamwork. However, with
teams taking nearly twice as long as planned to build each single-engine plane, it will be some time
before the plant is profitable. Clearly, teams take time.
When Cessna chose a team approach at its Independence factory, its goal was to change from
a “people-blaming” culture to a “process-oriented” culture, in which teams would have much more
authority, and would own and control their work. Now, rather than engineers deciding the “standard”
time that it takes to complete a task, teams decide the standard.
Besides production teams, Cessna also used teams in purchasing. In particular, it created
commodity teams with workers from seven different areas, purchasing, manufacturing engineering,
quality engineering, product design engineering, reliability engineering, product support and finance.
Each commodity team created strategic plans dealing with make versus buy decisions, sourcing (who
to buy from), plant and quality improvements, and training suppliers to reduce costs and increase
quality. For example, Cessna has long been one of the most vertically integrated aviation
manufacturers, meaning that it has typically produced most of the parts for its planes, rather than
buying those parts from suppliers. However, because of the new commodities teams, it began
reexamining that strategy. When the new commodities teams examined make versus buy decisions,
they looked at every major category of parts, from engines, to wings, to electronics, and took a hard
look at Cessna’s areas of expertise and production capabilities. In the end, they came up with groups of
parts that could be completely outsourced to suppliers at a lower cost and higher quality. Thus, Cessna
got rid of its aluminum shearing division, and now pays less to buy aluminum precut to its rigorous
specifications directly from Alcoa.
95. Refer to WWYD Cessna. Which of the following was not considered a disadvantage likely to be faced
by Cessna when the new teams started to build the Skyhawk?
Teams have a learning curve.
Teams tend to be composed of younger people.
The outlay in costs is significant.
Teams have a higher chance of not working than working.
Teams might not have been the best choice given the type of work done at the factory.