The president of Simplex Mills sat at his desk in the hushed atmosphere, so typical of business offices, after the close of working hours. He was thinking about Rehman, the manager in-charge of purchasing, and his ability to work with George, the production manager, and Vipulabh, the marketing and sales manager in the firm.
When the purchasing department was established two years ago, both George and Vipulabh agreed with the need to centralise this function and place a specialist in charge. George was of the view that this would free his supervisors from detailed ordering activities. Vipulabh opined that the flow of materials into the firm was important enough to warrant a specialised management assignment. Yet since the purchasing department began operating it has been precisely these two managers who have had a number of confrontations with the new purchase manager, and occasionally with one another, in regard to the way the purchasing function in being carried out.
From George’s point of view, instead of simplifying his job as production manager by taking care of purchasing for him, the purchasing department has developed a formal set of procedures that has resulted in as much time commitment on his part as he had previously spent in placing his orders directly with vendors. Further, he is specially irritated by the fact that his need for particular items or particular specification is constantly being questioned by the purchasing department. When the department was established, George assumed that the purchasing manager was there to fill his needs, not to question them.
As Vipulabh sees it, the purchasing function is an integral part of marketing function, and the two therefore need to be jointly managed as a unified process. Purchasing function cannot be separated from a firm’s overall marketing strategy. However, Rehman has attempted to carry out the purchasing function without regard for this obvious relationship between his responsibilities and those of Vipulabh, thus making a unified marketing strategy impossible.
In his previous position, Rehman had worked in the purchasing department of a firm considerably larger than Simplex. Before being hired, he was interviewed by all the top managers, including George and Vipulabh, but it was the president himself who negotiated the details of the job offer. As Rehman sees it, he was hired as a professional to do a professional job. Both George and Vipulabh have been distracting him from this goal by presuming that he is somehow subordinate to them, which he believes is not the case. The people in the production department, who use the purchasing function most, have complained about the detail that he requires on their requisitions. But he has documented proof that materials are now being purchased much more economically than they were under the former decentralised system. He finds Vipulabh’s interests more difficult to understand, since he sees no particular relationship between his responsibilities for efficient procurement, and Vipulabh’s responsibilities to market the firm’s products.
The president has been aware of the continuing conflict among three managers for some time, but on the theory that a little rivalry is healthy and stimulating, he has felt that it was nothing to be unduly concerned about. But now that much of his time is being taken up by much of what he considers to be petty bickering, the time has come to take some positive action.
1. Is George’s view of the situation realistic?
2. How do you evaluate Vipulabh’s position?
3. How might this conflict be associated with factors in the formal organisation?
4. What should the president of Simplex Mills do now?
19th August 2012 From India, Mumbai
Bharat Engineering Works Limited is a major industrial machineries besides other engineering products. It has enjoyed market preference for its machineries because of limited competition in the field. Usually there have been more orders than what the company could supply. However, the scenario changed quickly because of the entry of two new competitors in the field with foreign technological collaboration. For the first time, the company faced problem in marketing its products with usual profit margin. Sensing the likely problem, the chief executive appointed Mr Arvind Kumar as general manager to direct the operations of industrial machinery division. Mr Kumar had similar assignment abroad before coming back to India.
Mr Kumar had a discussion with the chief executive about the nature of the problem being faced by the company so that he could fix up his priority. The chief executive advised him to consult various heads of department to have first hand information. However, he emphasised that the company lacked an integrated planning system while members of the Board of Directors insisted on introducing this in several meetings both formally and informally.
After joining as General Manager, Mr Kumar got briefings from the heads of all departments. He asked all heads to identify major problems and issues concerning them. The marketing manager indicated that in order to achieve higher sales, he needed more sales support. Sales people had no central organisation to provide sales support nor was there a generous budget for demonstration teams which could be sent to customers to win business.
The production manager complained about the old machines and equipments used in manufacturing. Therefore, cost of production was high but without corresponding quality. While competitors had better equipments and machinery, Bharat Engineering had neither replaced its age-old plant nor reconditioned it. Therefore to reduced the cost, it was essential to automate production lines by installing new equipment.
Director of research and development did not have specific problem and therefore, did not indicate for any change. However, a principal scientist in R&D indicated on one day that the director of R&D, though very nice in his approach, did not emphasize on short-term research projects, which could easily increase production efficiency by at least 20 per cent within a very short period without any major capital outlay.
(a) Discuss the nature and characteristics of the problems in this case.
(b) What steps should be taken by Mr Kumar to overcome these problems?
19th August 2012 From India, Mumbai