Academic journal article Journal of the International Academy for Case Studies

Rodney Strong Winery: The Great Cork debate.(Instructor's Note)

Academic journal article Journal of the International Academy for Case Studies

Rodney Strong Winery: The Great Cork debate.(Instructor's Note)

Article excerpt


The primary subject matter of this case concerned an intriguing product development dilemma encountered at Rodney Strong Vineyards, whether to use natural corks or metal screw caps on their wines. Secondary issues examined include Total Cost Analysis, Cost of Quality, House of Quality, and the voice of the customer. The case has a difficulty level of three and is very appropriate for advanced undergraduate and MBA level classes. The case is designed to be taught in one hour of class time with one hour of outside preparation by students.


John Leyden, the Vice President of Packaging and Distribution at Rodney Strong Vineyards, wrestled with the issue of cork taint--a widespread quality problem that ruins a significant percentage of wine. Cork taint causes moldy, musty aromas that affect perhaps up to 10% of wine produced worldwide. Contamination can lead to customer alienation and ultimately lost sales. Cork taint is a defect that can be eliminated by using alternative closures, such as screw caps or plastic corks, instead of natural cork. From a quality viewpoint, the best solution is a screw cap, which offers the advantages of a durable, long-lasting seal, which can be resealed after the bottle has been opened. However, this solution has been rejected in the marketplace because cork is perceived as a high quality closure while screw caps are associated with cheap jug wines.

Product development decisions require marketing, production, quality control, and purchasing to work together to find a solution. Suppliers should also be included to provide technical information and suggest solutions. The issue boils down to a choice between the technical superiority of one closure or consumer preference for a popular but inferior closure. John Leyden gathered critical information from suppliers and colleagues to help him make the decision. Possible courses of action included changing suppliers, increasing quality control efforts, using an alternate closure, or doing nothing. As the case closed, John was faced with the dilemma of whether to select a high-performance closure, which customers may not accept, or the inferior customer-preferred natural cork.

Students are asked to complete a Total Cost Analysis model. They are also asked to analyze the consumer acceptance aspects of the decision. A complete House of Quality example is fully developed to assess Cost of Quality issues.



This case illustrates the use of three important operations tools. (1) Total Cost Analysis is an approach to understanding all costs associated with a product decision. It considers costs of product failure, additional equipment, quality assurance, and disposal. (2) Cost of Quality is a system developed to state all the costs associated with defective products in dollars and cents. (3) The House of Quality relates customer defined product traits to the technical product specifications needed to support the customer requirements in a systematic and graphic manner. The case promotes discussion of several facets of a product development decision, including cost, consumer acceptance, and technical performance. It demonstrates that input is required from several departments in the firm as well as customers and suppliers in order to reach an appropriate decision. The case enables the instructor to teach about levels of product attributes and methods of including the voice of the customer in design decisions. Students are given practice using these tools to assess the trade-offs involved in developing a successful product.


The case is suited for an advanced undergraduate or MBA level class. It is targeted for a Production Operations or Supply Chain Management course. It would be very suitable when product development or product quality issues are considered. The authors have found the wine focus to be popular with students and to generate extensive discussion. …

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