The Buxton Falls refinery in Ohio was one of the precursors to transformation. Sparked by an innovative group of managers, it developed an operating environment with high-performance, self-managing teams and a series of innovative union-management partnerships focused around improving safety, environmental, and (later) financial performance. For most of this period, the innovations continued despite continued financial difficulties at the refinery.
As with other precursors, the changes at Buxton Falls began in response to severe economic downturns.
Businesses that were most economically challenged had the greatest incentive to change.
SENIOR MANAGER, OILCO: Why did Buxton Falls go to selfmanaged teams so early? To reduce cost. This was the highest-cost refinery in the OilCo system, and pretty much in the industry. If it kept going the way it was, it would not survive.
FORMER MANAGER, BUXTON FALLS: In the early 1990s, margins started to drop precipitously: from $6.00 per barrel to $2.00. Buxton Falls went from making millions per year to losing millions per year.
The plant had a culture of eleven unions. In general, there was more employee loyalty to the union than to the