Decentralization Gives Wilson Mangers Greater Voice

Article excerpt

Decentralization of authority at Wilson Foods Corp. has given plant managers througout the country greater voice in decision-making, said David Smoak, president and chief executive officer of the Oklahoma City meatpacker.

New management has been restructuring the workforce and introducing new approaches to old problems since the hostile takeover of Wilson in mid-October by Doskocil Companies Inc. of South Hutchinson, Kan.

"Morale is at an all-time high," said Hub Johnson, general manager of Wilson's largest plant which employs 1,500 people in Logansport, Ind.

"The people at Wilson see our new owners doing something," Johnson said referring to changes he has witnessed in the last three months.

"We (plant managers) see our new owners letting local management have more of a voice in the operation," he said. "We always resented being told by headquarters how many hours you had to work and what to do. Now I know what has to be done and I'm allowed to do it."

"The telephone lines between the plant and headquarters are not nearly as busy as they used to be," he said.

Under new management, Logansport plant employees work an average of 40 hours a week compared to 60 during peak holiday seasons under old management, Johnson said. The old system "caused problems," he said.

The most positive change has been the increasing spirit of teamwork between Wilson plants and headquarters, said Johnson who has trained two plant mangagers since coming to Wilson four years ago.

"We (Wilson plant managers) all feel the same way," he said. "We're happy with the changes we see."

The elimination of 22 jobs at the Logansport plant last month and the reduction in paperwork necessary for routine business operations has seemingly contributed to increased productivity, Johnson said.

In January, productivity at the Logansport plant increased 25 percent for the first time in eight months, he said.

"The hostile takeover was very disruptive to productivity," he said.

Doskocil's successful attempt to buy Wilson started in early 1988 and was not completed until October.

"I hate to see 133 people lose their jobs," said Johnson referring to the company-wide lay off on Jan. …