Hank Kolb was whistling as he walked toward his office, still feeling a bit like a stranger since he
had been hired four weeks before as director-quality assurance. All that week he had been away
from the plant at a seminar given for quality managers of manufacturing plants by the corporate
training department. He was now looking forward todigging into the quality problems at this
industrial products plant employing 1,200 people.
Kolb poked his head into Mark Hamler's office, his immediate subordinate as the quality control
manager, and asked him how things had gone during the past week. Hamler's muted smile and an
"Oh, fine," stopped Kolb in his tracks. He didn't know Hamler very well and was unsure about
pursuing thisreply any further. Kolb was still uncertain of how to start building a relationship with
him since Hamler had been passed over for the promotion to Kolb's job—Hamler's evaluation form
had stated "superb technical knowledge; managerial skills lacking." Kolb decided to inquire a little
further and asked Hamler what had happened; he replied: "Oh, just another typical quality snafu.
We had alittle problem on the Greasex line last week [a specialized degreasing solvent packed in a
spray can for the high technology sector]. A little high pressure was found in some cans on the
second shift, but a supervisor vented them so that we could ship them out. We met our delivery
schedule!" Since Kolb was still relatively unfamiliar with the plant and its products, he asked Hamler
toelaborate; painfully, Hamler continued:
We've been having some trouble with the new filling equipment and some of the cans were
pressurized beyond the upper specification limit. The production rate is still 50% of standard, about
14 cases per shift, and we caught it halfway into the shift. Mac Evans [the inspector for that line]
picked it up, tagged the cases "hold," and went on abouthis duties. When he returned at the end of
the shift to write up the rejects, Wayne Simmons, first-line supervisor, was by a pallet of finished
goods finishing sealing up a carton of the rejected Greasex; the reject "hold" tags had been removed.
He told Mac that he had heard about the high pressure from another inspector at coffee break, had
come back, taken off the tags, individuallyturned the cans upside down and vented every one of
them in the eight rejected cartons. He told Mac that production planning was really pushing for the
stuff and they couldn't delay by having it sent through the rework area. He told Mac that he would
get on the operator to run the equipment right next time. Mac didn't write it up but came in about
three days ago to tell me about it. Oh, ithappens every once in a while and I told him to make sure to
check with maintenance to make sure the filling machine was adjusted; and I saw Wayne in the hall
and told him that he ought to send the stuff through rework next time.
Dr. Frank S. Leonard prepared this case.HBS cases are developed solely as the basis for class discussion. Cases are not intended to serve as
endorsements, sources of primary data, or illustrations of effective or ineffective management.
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681-083 Hank Kolb, Director, Quality...