The ETS system significantly changed the way the entire company operated. Developed by Bob Phillips and Harvey DeWitt the system placed timely and accurate information in the hands of people who needed it the most. Prior to the establishment of this system operators had little idea of the way their decisions affected total cost for the production of paper. This system not only changed the company bottom line, it also changed the essential roles of managers and operators.
The operators no longer played a passive role; rather, they now were deeply involved in the success or failure of the company. The system gave them the opportunity to make better decisions than the managers ever could. In essence it “gave full license to operators to manage the business on a cost basis”. The interaction between shifts of operators also improved since no time was wasted passing on information. Each shift had the same data viewed and used by the prior operators. The ETS also allowed the operators to pinpoint the reasons why paper came out better and allowed them to fix problems that came up faster.
Management was skeptical of the ETS from the beginning. They disliked the idea of putting such a tool in the hands of the common workers. Philips and DeWitt did not intend for the ETS system to be used by any of the line managers. What this meant for managers was a small loss of power. A “power shift” was occurring in favor of the operators which made management fairly uncomfortable. The line managers began to have less involvement in the day to day decisions. Operators where the first to use the ETS and as Philips stated “ETS was an operator tool and they're the ones who need to be involved”.
Several reasons can be attributed to the plateau of the ETS. The first reason deals with the lack of support from management. DeWitt argued that only 30% of the ETS’ true potential had been achieved. He went on to say that to achieve the full benefits of the system managers and the union would have support the operators using the system.
Lack of proper training was also one of the problems believed to have caused the halt in progress. Only about 20% of the operators who were trained to use the system actually developed a high level of proficiency. Some of the operators thought that the percentage might be even lower around 10%. What further contributed to the lack of training was the abrupt ending that happened before level 2 was completed. Phillips said that the operators where left to their own devices when it came to figuring out how to use the system more creatively. They were given the basic knowledge of the system but were never taught how to use it to really impact the business. This resulted in operators who were scared to use the ETS. The fear of making an embarrassing mistake or worse made them wary of using it.
The increasing involvement of the managers is the third reason as to why things began to slow down. Once Deutsch’s special project assignment ended managers began to intervene in the process. According to him they started changing the ETS without telling the operators what they had done. On top of that they discouraged operators from exploring and experimenting with the ETS. Soon they started giving the operators rules as to how they could use the…