The switch by GE Appliance from metal to plastic for the production of washing machine tubs and baskets is both an example of corporate dexterity and a reminder of how the use of plastics keeps expanding. As noted in last week's Page 1 report by staff writer Bill Bregar, GE's self-imposed challenge was to produce an improved washer with reduced manufacturing costs and fewer parts. By replacing the product's porcelain-enameled steel tub and basket with plastic, the company was able to eliminate several components and manufacturing steps while reducing the unit's weight.
For added consumer value, GE attached a lifetime warranty to the molded polypropylene tub.
The GE story is a ready reminder that, to a greater extent than most people realize, in ways both small and large, industry continues to make good use of the remarkable diversity of plastics, better technology and manufacturing processes.
The larger example is reflected on Page 10 in this issue of Plastics News in a report about Toronto-based Royal Plastics Group Ltd.'s production of plastic houses. The company has sold more than 1,100 of the modular dwellings throughout the world and recently obtained building code approvals in Canada for its system of interlocking extruded vinyl panels and posts. Royal anticipates getting building code approvals next year for the U.S. market.
Some in the industry might view the houses Royal manufactures as simply a celebration of plastics. That would be short-sighted. Shelter is one of life's basic needs and millions of people, particularly in developing nations, suffer extreme hardship because of the lack of adequate, affordable housing.
There is a huge potential market for manufacturers such as Royal, and for the social good that modern materials such as plastics can provide consumers to improve the quality of everyday life.
Managers' self-worth rewrites 'workbook'
A Stanford University Graduate School of Business experiment noted recently by The Wall Street Journal demonstrated that bosses' rate work they had a hand in higher than work produced without their input, even when the end result is precisely the same.
A professor of organizational behavior at the California school said the implication was that some supervisors ``may be impeding use of work-empowerment techniques, such as delegating or using teamwork.''
The behavior of managers, he noted, appears to be one of the reasons companies have been unable to move beyond the old ``boss-and-worker'' system.
In other words, management too often gets in the way of the workers. Isn't that what the late W. Edward Deming taught for more than half a century?