Black and Decker realigns staff

August 25, 1994|By Amy L. Miller | Amy L. Miller,Sun Staff Writer

Following a companywide trend, Black and Decker's accessories division in Hampstead has divided its work force into four "sub-factories."

The realignment is intended to make the 270-employee division more responsive to customer demands and allow it to shift workers to temporarily understaffed areas, said Chuck Wetherington, accessories division plant manager, this week.

"We want to get away from carrying inventory to meet customer demand," Mr. Wetherington said. "That's what I call the 'Field of Dreams' style of management -- build it and hope they buy it."

At present, inventory can be tied up in items that customers don't need. Under the new system, the division will manufacture and package on demand, shooting for a 24-hour response time, he said.

"We want to be the accessories cafeteria to the world," Mr. Wetherington said. "This should improve our cash flow and service to our customers."

The realignment will expand the already extensive cross training of employees, he said.

"Already someone who packages drill bits can build PowerShots," said Mr. Wetherington, referring to the company's newest staple gun.

Accessories, which employs more workers than any of the other eight major divisions at the 950-employee plant, packages items used in power tools such as saw blades, drill bits and sanding equipment. Those items are either manufactured by Black and Decker at other facilities or purchased from other companies, Mr. Wetherington said.

A smaller portion of the division is involved in making fasteners, primarily manufacturing the PowerShot. This week, Hampstead employees celebrated manufacturing the millionth PowerShot, which has won design awards from Popular Mechanics magazine and was featured in Business Week magazine, Mr. Wetherington said.

"The PowerShot has received critical acclaim and some acclaim in the marketplace, as shown by our manufacturing during the month of August the one millionth PowerShot," he said. The Hampstead plant began production of the staple gun, which retails for about $20, last year.

The gun's design, which is reversed from those of traditional staple guns, requires less force to operate than its competitors, Mr. Wetherington said.

About 20 percent of the PowerShots manufactured during the next year have been earmarked for sale in Europe, he said.

Black and Decker has also received an award for the PowerShot's packaging, which allows consumers to test it before purchasing.

"Even I can use this," Commissioner Julia W. Gouge said during Monday's presentation. Ms. Gouge said she has problems with her wrists that make traditional staple guns difficult to use.

The division, which has doubled in size every two years for the past six years, expects to continue that growth, Mr. Wetherington said.

In addition to adding about 50 temporary employees to prepare for the Christmas season, the division also intends to absorb the 100 employees affected by the distribution center's downsizing, said.

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