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Human Resource Assignment Question
Arup Packaging Limited is a large manufacturer of packaging solutions. Arup’s products include glass, aluminium, plastic and paper based packaging solutions. Arup mainly operates in Australia and comprises of four business units. The business units are organised based on the material used in packaging solutions: glass packaging, aluminium packaging, plastic packaging and paper packaging.
Arup is an unlisted public company; this means it is a company that has issued shares to the public but is not listed on the Australian Securities Exchange. In 2016, Arup celebrated 50 years. The company employs around 800 people across its four manufacturing plants, distribution centres, sales offices and corporate office. The sales offices and distribution centres are located in Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane and Perth. Arup recently opened a sales office in Paris.
The four manufacturing plants and the corporate office are all located in close proximity to each other in Newcastle in New South Wales (NSW). Newcastle is located in the Hunter region of NSW, about 160 kilometres north of Sydney. Arup is proud to be one the few manufacturers that continues to exclusively manufacture in Australia. Arup believes that its investments in advanced technology have resulted in consistently high quality packaging solutions. The management team and the Board of Directors see product quality as Arup’s competitive advantage, insulating it against competition from cheaper production options overseas. Arup’s core values are teamwork, integrity, excellence and innovation.
Out of Arup’s 800 employees, about 700 are located in its manufacturing plants and corporate office in Newcastle. Manufacturing employees are represented by the Australian Manufacturing Workers’ Union. This union has generally had a harmonious relationship with Arup management. Since it started as a plant with just 100 employees, Arup has been a strong part of the Newcastle community. It is one of the largest employers in the region and continues to attract local employees.
Since its inception, Arup has concentrated on high quality packaging produced in large quantities. Arup’s customers are some of the largest food and beverage manufacturers in Australia. Arup has found that these customers have stable product lines and their packaging solution requirements remain mostly stable. Often the biggest changes requested by these customers are modification to existing packaging (e.g., larger size aluminium can, different coloured beverage bottle). Only needing to make minor product changes has meant Arup has been able to maintain high levels of productivity. While orders from these customers initially grew rapidly, in the last 5 years the growth has plateaued.
In response, Arup’s Board of Directors initiated a strategic review and a risk analysis of Arup in 2015. After this exercise, the Board of Directors and the top management team identified their dependence on a few large customers in Australia as a significant risk to
Arup’s future. The Board members and the top management team decided to look at expanding Arup’s customer base while maintaining the company’s existing clients.
In 2015, Annie Lee, CEO since 1999, retired and Franco Weller joined as the new CEO of Arup. Franco was given a mandate to take the expansion initiative forward. The Board of Directors encouraged the hiring of a senior manager to handle strategy and business development. This position reports directly to the CEO. Brenda Petersen started as Head of Strategy and Business Development in April 2016.
Since joining Arup, Brenda has been working tirelessly to attract new customers outside Australia. Brenda’s most promising leads have come from Europe. Most potential clients were impressed by Arup’s high quality products. After months of hard work, Brenda has been able to secure packaging orders from a group of clients in France and Belgium.
Orders will start in September 2017. Brenda is confident that this is the beginning of a new market for Arup’s products.
At Arup’s Board meeting in February 2017, the CEO, Franco Weller, reported these new developments to the Board of Directors. The Chairman and the Board were pleased with this outcome and asked the top management team to develop plans as to how this initiative will be taken forward.
The top management team (see figure 1 below) met early this week to discuss the implications of these new customers to Arup’s business strategy. At the management meeting, Brenda presented the new strategic initiative. She emphasised the following factors in relation to the new customers:
∙ The new customers require mostly paper and plastic packaging products at this stage.
∙ Unlike the customers in Australia, these European organisations are medium sized and offer a wide variety of products. This means the orders for packaging products are likely to be smaller and more varied.
∙ These customers usually change their packaging designs at least once a year, so stable product designs that Arup is used to will need to change.
∙ The European customers are offering a higher price than Australian customers. Even when freight costs are taken into consideration, Arup’s profit margins are likely to be higher from these European customers compared to those in Australia.
Brenda ended her presentation, emphasising that it was critical to ensure that the first orders in September 2017 are completed on time and to high standards. She said that the first orders should be seen as a first step towards attracting more orders and potentially more European companies willing to buy Arup’s products.
The following is a transcript of the conversation that took place after Brenda’s presentation.
Franco: I agree with Brenda. We need make sure that those first orders are perfect. In my discussions with the Board of Directors, I requested permission to recruit a General Manager to be in charge of these European customers. This manager will report directly to me and will work closely with Brenda. The Board approved it.
Franco showed the proposed organisational chart (see figure 2) to the top management team.
Jeremy: This might look like we are just adding another manager to the top management team (refers to the proposed organisational chart), but this is a more significant change. For the last 50 years, we have worked with large organisations, our orders are large and design changes are very minor. Do you think we have the capability to handle the design requirements of these customers from Europe?
Franco: I agree that expanding our customer base into Europe is a significant strategic change for us. But it reduces our reliance on a few customers in this region. To answer your question, I don’t think we have the design capability at the moment. We need to develop that quickly in order to get to production in September.
Gabrielle: From an HR perspective, this is a huge change. Our employees and managers are used to working on large orders and long production cycles. We have always praised and rewarded productivity. This kind of change requires a complete mindset transformation. Basically we need to rethink how we approach work.
Brenda: Yes, but it will make us a more versatile producer of packaging solutions. Remember, innovation is one of our core values, but our innovations have been small and incremental. It is time we really lived that value.
Jose: You know that we are all committed to the expansion strategy. It is just that this is all happening quite fast and we don’t have a lot of time to get our act together. I suggest that we work in smaller groups to work out what this means for each of our functions. That way we can have a more concrete discussion when we meet again this Friday.
Franco: You are right, Jose, that is a great idea. I will leave it up to you all to work out the smaller teams. Check with Brenda if you have any questions. Brenda will email information about the September 2017 orders to you. As usual, my door is open if you have any questions. We all need to work on this if we are to make this happen by this September.
Gabrielle, General Manager, Human Resources, was the first to speak as the other managers walked out of the conference room.
“Brenda, I really need your help to work out what employees we are going to need. Since the new customers will mostly use our paper and plastic products, it will be great if Manju and Chris can join us.”
“I’ve got about 30 minutes”, said Chris.
“Same here, I can spare about 30 minutes and then I have a production meeting”, added Manju.
Gabrielle, Brenda, Chris and Manju sat down. The following is a transcript of the conversation that took place among these four managers.
Brenda: First and foremost, we need to recruit a General Manager to head the European Division. Someone who is familiar with both plastic and paper production at the very least. Added bonus if they have experience in glass and aluminium packaging.
Gabrielle: Yes, and it is a new position. It will be like mixing Chris’ and Manju’s jobs to create a new job. So I will need to do a job analysis first.
Chris: Then we need some factory workers. Manju and I can give you an estimate of employee numbers you need. But do you realise that the factory workers we need to work in the Europe product line will need a different skill set to the factory workers that we have at the moment?
Gabrielle: Yes, and we also need to work out whether it is actually a new position or very similar to the job description of our existing factory workers.
Chris: We haven’t looked at the job descriptions of our current factory workers for several years. Those might need updating as well.
Manju: Most of our supervisors look at job descriptions as bureaucratic paper work. I am afraid sometimes they shift tasks around without considering the job descriptions or letting HR know.
Gabrielle: This is not a good look. A few minor changes are fine, but if there are significant changes we do need to update those job descriptions.
Brenda: I think one other thing we need to reflect on is whether we want to take the same specialisation approach with the factory workers who will be working in the European production line. Given our long production cycles, our factory workers are trained in one specialised task. They rarely see the big picture as to how it all comes together as a final product. A specialisation approach helped maintain our really high levels of productivity, but that approach may not work with the new venture. We may want to think about some cross-training and job rotation options.
Chris: That is a great idea. Specialisation kept our productivity high but I think some of our workers found the work to be mind-numbing after a while. Recently, Joe who has worked on the factory floor for 15 years told me that he could stack boxes in his sleep!
Manju: Yes, but I think sometimes they take that as something to be proud of. On our floor, the teams really see themselves as packing team, raw material team etc. They take pride in their section’s output. That’s great, but the downside is that they get into all sorts of turf wars because they see themselves as their section and not as part of the whole paper packaging team.
Gabrielle: Another aspect we need to think about in terms of the new production line is how rigidly we want to control factory workers’ schedules. With long production cycles, at the moment the supervisor sets the tasks weeks ahead and there is little the factory workers can do to change anything. With shorter production cycles, we may need to let the team decide how to swap tasks around to get higher productivity.
Chris: Yes, that is an interesting point, something we need to reflect on.
Brenda: You know something that I saw when I visited our potential customers and their food and beverage factories? They start each day with a group meeting. The supervisor talks with each team. Tells them about their performance the previous day; for example, in production he tells them about the number of units completed and how many had to be thrown out as defects. Then they talk a little about that day’s performance goals. They also chat a little about social things related to employees. For example, someone’s partner is in hospital, someone’s child started kindergarten. All in all, it only takes about 5 minutes. I think it is something we can think about adopting with this new production team.
Manju: I have been thinking about something like this for a while. I like that idea.
Brenda: Before Franco started, when Annie was our CEO, we used to do these Town Hall meetings every quarter with each production line. Annie would talk to glass packaging one day and then the aluminium packaging the next. It was a good way to link employees to the big picture and show why their work really matters. I don’t think we have done that since Franco started; we have all been busy with the new strategic plan. I am going to suggest to Franco that we need to restart that.
Gabrielle: Great ideas, but I am concerned that if we adopt these new strategies only with the new production team, we will end up with two different factories under the same name; two different cultures really. That would divide our team. Teamwork is one of our core values. So, as much as possible, as we think of strategies for the European production line, we should see whether we can adopt these with our existing factory workers. This “morning team catch-up” idea for example, I think if we do it, we should do it with the current employees too.
Chris, Manju and Brenda nodded their heads in agreement.
CASE STUDY QUESTIONS:
- Gabrielle needs to recruit a General Manager Packaging – Europe. She has decided to start with a job analysis of this position. Do you think it is appropriate to conduct a job analysis in this instance? Why? /Why not?
Describe the key steps that you would recommend to Gabrielle to conduct a job analysis of this position. Ensure that you have covered the key aspects involved in the process and applied these to Arup e.g., what data Gabrielle should collect, what data sources she should use, what methods she should use to collect data. Justify your recommendations.
- Using the Job Characteristics Model (Hackman & Oldham, 1976), identify which core job characteristics are present or absent in the current factory worker position at Arup Packaging Limited. By current I mean, the factory workers currently working on products for the Australian market. What changes in job design would you recommend to the top management team, in relation to the current factory worker position?
Use approximately 350 words per question in your response.
You need to support your responses with relevant academic literature and course material. Make sure you use the HR concepts discussed in this course when responding to both questions. Look at the assessment feedback sheet before you finalise your response.
Human Resource Assignment Solution
The discussion is with reference to the case study focussed on Arup Packaging Limited expanding its clientele. Arup Packaging works on a large-scale basis to provide packaging solutions. The business units are categorised based on the materials. Various materials are used for packaging and could be specifically identified as paper, glass, plastic, and aluminium. The enterprise is over five decades old and has eight hundred employees. Franco Weller has been the new C E O of the company. He has focussed on expanding to the European markets. The discussion focuses on job analysis and job redesigning.
Question 1: Recruitment of General Manager – Europe for Arup by Gabrielle:
Conducting a Job Analysis – Justification:
It would be beneficial to have a job analysis done for the following reasons:
- Skill Assessment for recruitment: Job analysis helps to decide on the qualification, experience and various other skills that would be required for the role (Brannick 2014). It is essential to ensure that the right talent is engaged.
- Standards and Performance: various Key performance Indicators could be decided while doing the job analysis. While Gabrielle conducts research, the K P I could be set. This would help to judge an onboarding an effective candidate for the role.
- Compensation and Job design: Job analysis would help to know-how would be right to pay to attract an efficient general manager (Brensing 2014). It would help to decide on the responsibilities of the general manager of Arup.