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Unformatted text preview: IEEE TRANSACTIONS ON SEMICONDUCTOR MANUFACTURING, VOL. 10, NO. 1, FEBRUARY 1997 1 Manufacturing Improvement Team Programs in the Semiconductor Industry Diane E. Bailey Abstract Increasing numbers of semiconductor manufacturers are implementing improvement programs at their manufacturing sites (fabs). Yet despite their rising popularity, little attention has focused on the impact of a programs design on its overall effectiveness. This research examines the improvement programs established at ten fabs. A categorization scheme classifies pro- grams according to their use of one of three types of teams: continuous improvement teams (CITs), quality circles (QCs), and self-directed work teams (SDWTs). Results from 188 op- erator surveys and over 150 interviews with fab employees (including managers, engineers, technicians, supervisors, oper- ators, and representatives from human resources and quality departments) indicate that a number of programs suffer from weak implementation and disorganized management. The failure to carefully design and implement a program is reflected in employee perceptions of the programs effectiveness. Perceptions of CIT programs are found to be significantly lower than those of QC or SDWT programs, both of which feature higher degrees of autonomy and training. Results also highlight a nearly universal failure to integrate production team programs with engineering and maintenance functions. To help improve future programs, design implications and aspects of effective team programs are noted. Special attention is paid to program selection, goal de- sign, organizational support, engineering integration, information systems, and empowerment semantics. Index Terms Improvement teams, manufacturing, semicon- ductor, team design, work groups. I. INTRODUCTION I N THE MID-1980s, with the Japanese threat to American supremacy in the semiconductor industry fast becoming a reality, many domestic firms began to examine every aspect of Japanese manufacturing, looking for any factor that could explain their success. While much of the interest was placed on manufacturing processes and equipment maintenance, or- ganizational issues also became of interest. A number of United States firms began to adopt Japanese-style organiza- tional innovations, such as the use of employee teams, in the hopes of gaining competitive advantage. In recent years, the use of improvement teams has rapidly expanded not only in the semiconductor industry but in many other organizations in both service and manufacturing industries. Osterman  estimates that nearly half of all corporations in the U.S. have implemented some form of team-based work system....
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