>> Case Study
The Bronson Insurance Group was originally founded in 1900 in Auxvasse, Missouri, by James Bronson. The Bronson Group owns a variety of companies that underwrite personal and commercial insurance policies. Annual sales of the Bronson Group are $100 million. In recent years, the company has suffered operating losses. In 1990, the company was heavily invested in computer hardware and software. One of the problems the Bronson Group faced (as well as many insurance companies) was a conflict between established manual procedures and the relatively recent (within the past 20 years) introduction of computer equipment. This conflict was illustrated by the fact that much information was captured on computer but paper files were still kept for practical and legal reasons.
The file department employed 20 file clerks who pulled files from stacks, refilled used files, and delivered files to various departments including commercial lines, personal lines, and claims. Once a file clerk received the file. Clerks delivered files to underwriters on an hourly basis throughout the day. The average file clerk was paid $8,300 per year. One special file clerk was used full time to search for requested files that another file clerk had not been able to find in the expected place. It was estimated that 40 percent of the requested files were these "no hit" files requiring a search. Often these "no hit" files were eventually found stacked in the requester's office. The primary "customers" of the file clerks were underwriters and claims attorneys.
Company management and operations analysts were consistently told that the greatest problem in the company was the inability of file clerks to supply files in a speedy fashion. The entire company from top to bottom viewed the productivity and effectiveness of the department as unacceptable. An underwriter used 20-50 files per day. Because of their distrust of the files department, underwriters tended to hoard often used files. A count by operations analysts found that each underwriter kept from 100-200 files in his or her office at any one time. An underwriter would request a file by computer and work on other business until the file was received. Benson employed 25 underwriters.
MANAGEMENT INFORMATION SYSTEM
Upper management was deeply concerned about this problem. The MIS department had suggested using video disks as a possible solution. A video disk system was found that would be sufficient for the companies needs at a cost of about $12 million. It was estimated that the system would take two years to install and make compatible with existing information systems. Another, less attractive was using microfilm. A microfilm system would require underwriters to go to a single keyboard to request paper copies of files. The cost of a microfilm system was $5 million.
1. What do you recommend? Should the company implement one of the new technologies? Why or why not?
2. An operations analyst suggested that company employees shared a "dump on the clerks" mentality. Explain.
Harrison T. Wenk III is 43, married, and has two children, ages 10 and 14. He has a master's degree in education and teachers junior high school music in a small town in Ohio. Harrison's father passed away two months ago, leaving his only child an unusual business opportunity. According to his father's will, Harrison has 12 months to become active in the family food-catering business, Kare- Full Katering, Inc., or it will be sold to two key employees for a reasonable and fair price. If Harrison becomes involved, the two employees have the option to purchase a significant, but less than majority, interest in the firm. Harrison's only involvement with this business, which his grandfather established, was as an hourly employee during high school and college summers. He is confident that he could learn and perhaps enjoy the marketing side of the business, and that he could retain the long-time head of accounting/finance. But he would never really enjoy day-to-day operations. In fact, he doesn't understand what operations management really involves. In 1991 Kare-Full Katering, Inc. had $3.75 million in sales in central Ohio. Net profit after taxes was $ 105,000, the eleventh consecutive year of profitable operations and the seventeenth in the last 20 years. There are 210 employees in this labor-intense business.
Institutional contracts account for over 70 percent of sales and include partial food services for three colleges, six commercial establishments) primarily manufacturing plants and banks), two long -term care facilities, and five grade schools. Some customer location employs a permanent operations manager; others are served from the main kitchens of Kare-Full Katering. Harrison believes that if he becomes active in the business, one of the two key employees, the vice president of operations, will leave thefirm.Harrison has decided to complete the final two months of this school year and then spend the summer around Kare-Full Katering - as well as institutions with their own food services - to assess whether he wants to become involved in the business. He is particularly interested in finding out as much as possible about operations. Harrison believes he owes it to his wife and children to fairly evaluate this opportunity.
1. Prepare a worksheet of operations activities that Harrison should inquire about this summer.
2. If you were Harrison, what would you do? Why?