Electronic Waste – A Supply Chain calling for Urgent Attention
UN has projected global e-waste to reach 50 million tons in 2018. This is a staggering number, considering the fact that most of the waste is a potential source of materials detrimental to the environment.
Developing countries have become the dumping ground for e-waste in the recent years. And while it has created a new line of work for many, its toxic effects are appalling. Recycling mostly involves separation of precious metals by burning away surrounding components, usually with the help of an open flame. Devoid of protective equipment and lacking knowledge about the long term effects of the gases released in the process, the workers and entrepreneurs are equally exposed to serious health issues affecting quality of life and longevity.
As the trade is set to expand with the increased use of electronics, immediate attention is needed to introduce better management and processing, taking help from some of the better models in developed countries. Electronics users and manufacturers around the world owe it to the poor workers in this trade, by raising awareness and joining forces with the organizations trying to improve the process with governmental and non-governmental involvement.
ROLE OF MANAGEMENT AND HRM PRACTICES IN ENHANCING ORGANIZATIONAL PRODUCTIVITY
By Adeel Zeerak, Registrar PIM
Due to globalization, many local businesses today face competition from professionally run multinational organizations in both local and foreign markets. Domestic organizations of various developing nations are thus forced to make continuous efforts to improve their productivity and performance in order to produce higher quality products at lower costs, enabling them to maintain market viability. Many of the organizations that are losing their competiveness day by day due to this rise of external rivalry need to change their outdated work methods as well as change their attitudes towards their business processes to ensure their survival in the marketplace. In order to emphasize the importance of change, the famous quality guru W. Edwards Deming very aptly stated, “It is not necessary to change. Survival is not mandatory.”
Productivity is the results (output), an organization gets for given amount of inputs. There are several benefits of increasing productivity that includes becoming more competitive due to reduction in operating costs and therefore higher profits. Making considerable improvement in organizational productivity to harness the full potential of the organization’s resource base is however, a complex process. It requires not only the application of appropriate operations management techniques but also a highly effective management team along with well-devised Human Resource Management practices.
The old fashioned notion of simply ‘getting people to work harder’ has very little effect on productivity improvement. In general, about 85% of productivity is set by the process, which is designed by management, and only about 15% is under the influence of individual workers (Ref: Operations Management by Donald Waters, page # 165). If you place a good person into a bad system, the system will win most of the time. A person digging a hole with a spade can work very arduously but still be far less productive than a lazy person with a bulldozer performing the same job. And if that lazy person on the bulldozer is also well trained in operating the machine and is made highly motivated to work, through the application of appropriate management techniques, this will make his overall productivity measurement reach new heights. This stream of logic is encapsulated in the Productivity Enhancement Model which depicts the relationship between the various factors impacting productivity.
The Productivity Enhancement Model, developed by the author of this article, illustrates the relationship between productivity and the numerous factors which shape it like management style, organizational policies, HRM practices, and employee motivation. It is a tool to guides management to opt for those actions that are geared towards their organizational productivity improvement efforts. According to this model, overall management style and organizational policies strongly affect the employees’ motivation level. Even the best employees cannot perform well without effective management, proper direction, support, tools, and resources. Moreover, management plays a critical role in defining the direction, purpose, priorities, goals, and roles of the workforce. High employee motivation levels raise the extent of efforts and perseverance committed on the part of the employees.
Human Resource Management practices in organizations inclusive of recruitment, selection, training, and performance management, determine the competency levels of employees with respect to their jobs. These processes collectively ascertain that the right people are at the right place and at right time in the organization to perform the work. Increasing productivity is one of the most critical goals in business. Unfortunately, this activity is seldom accepted by HR professionals as a legitimate mandate. While most HR professionals acknowledge that their job entails establishing policy, procedures, and programs governing people management, few attempt to connect these tasks to the goal of increasing employee output (volume, speed, and quality) per rupee incurred as labor costs.
Competent and motivated employees at managerial and non-managerial positions perform well at their respective jobs. High performing Managers expend continuous efforts in improving work processes which allow for dramatic improvements in productivity. As can be seen, productivity is therefore, largely a measure of management’s performance and depends far less on the individual effort of the workers, although the performance of both groups is necessary to maximize organizational productivity.
The best example for this model is that of Fredrick Winslow Taylor’s pig iron experiment at Midvale Steel Company. Workers loaded ‘pigs’ of iron (each weighing 92 lbs) onto rail cars. Their daily average output amounted to 12.5 tons. However, Taylor believed that scientifically scrutinizing and analyzing the job to determine the ‘one best way’ to load pig iron, would enable an increase in output to 47 or 48 tons per day. After applying the combination of optimal procedures, techniques, and tools based on his investigation, Taylor succeeded in achieving his desired level of productivity. He matched the right person to the right job, provided the correct tools and equipment, exacted meticulous adherence to his instructions, and additionally motivated workers with an economic incentive, namely the offer of a significantly higher daily wage. The overall result was remarkable.
Another striking example of process design alteration to increase productivity is that of Henry Ford who realized that in order to sell his cars at a low price he would have to significantly lower his production costs. To accomplish this, he introduced a set of very efficient production techniques. These included a) completely interchangeable parts, b) an extreme degree of division of labor, and c) the assembly line. The results were outstanding. In 1908, the cheapest Model T sold at $825. By 1913, the price was down to $500. In 1916, it was further reduced to $360. Finally in 1926, the retail price hit a rock bottom of $290. As Ford’s workers became more productive, he could afford to pay them higher salaries. In 1914, he astonished the industrial world by raising the minimum wage in his plant to $5 a day, an enormous figure for that time, and nearly twice as much as the company’s average wage had previously been.
The Japanese have revolutionized the field of productivity management by pioneering the concept of ‘lean’. This approach of enhancing productivity is founded upon the principle of waste minimization and was mostly developed by the renowned automaker Toyota. The House of Toyota, created by Taiichi Ohno and Eiji Toyoda, is a framework commonly used to explain the entire scope of lean and its implications on operational and managerial practices. Two of its core aspects are continuous improvement ‘Kaizen’ and ‘Respect for People’.
In summary, organizations need to apply a holistic approach towards improving productivity. It includes improvement of several business processes including processes pertaining to Human Resources management, management leadership style, and overall organizational polices.
The author is a seasoned supply chain professional, trainer, consultant and a dynamic professional who brings with him more than 13 years of corporate world experience. Currently he is associated with Pakistan Institute of Management and performing the tasks of a trainer, consultant as well as registrar for the Institute.
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