Page 1: Introduction
Today, we have moved well beyond the time when decisions were made at the top of an organisation and then passed ‘down the line’ to ground floor operatives. In modern organisations, important decisions need to be made by individual employees who are directly involved in production processes and interact face-to-face with customers. The term associated with this change is ‘empowerment.’ Many modern employees are ‘empowered’ to think things through for themselves and take the appropriate actions. This involves a higher level of ‘trust’ in employees - that they will make the right decisions. However, to ensure that employees are able to take on the new responsibilities associated with empowerment, it is essential that they are given the necessary training for their enhanced duties. This case study focuses on methods used by a leading UK company to move decision making ‘down the line.’ It examines how British Steel Strip Products, Integrated Works at Llanwern, engaged in a training programme based on empowerment, resulting in the company winning the National Training Award in 1995.
The Llanwern Works
Llanwern Works is a fully integrated steelmaking plant and a principal unit within British Steel’s Strip Products business. It was constructed on a greenfield site near Newport, Gwent. The plant has a liquid steel capacity of three million tonnes per year, which is processed into hot and cold rolled strip steel (including zinc alloy coated strip) to precise tolerances in both coil and sheet form.
Recently, organisational restructuring at Llanwern has fully combined the Works with its sister plant, Port Talbot, to become a responsive single operating unit (Integrated Works), employing 7,500 people and capable of producing just over six million tonnes of steel per year.