When is a longtime past practice not binding?

In 1986 management eliminated vending machines in the cafeteria as "inefficient and uneconomical" after they had been in existence 3 yr. "They shouldn't have been installed in the first place," the plant manager said.


In 1986 management eliminated vending machines in the cafeteria as "inefficient and uneconomical" after they had been in existence 3 yr. "They shouldn't have been installed in the first place," the plant manager said. "The company's too small to make them pay their way."

At that time a request was granted for employees to bring in their own coffee makers. From then on workers enjoyed coffee indulgence at will. Since 1986 business had boomed and the personnel roster almost tripled. In addition, the closing of a nearby diner made eating facilities in the area more distant and inconvenient. The company was now better suited for vending machines than it had been in the past, management decided. Plant Engineer Carl Hammer negotiated with a food supplier who agreed to install machines if employees were prohibited from brewing their own coffee. When Hammer decided to comply with this proviso, employees, represented by a two-man committee, protested.

"You can't do that unilaterally," the spokesperson said. "We've been brewing our own coffee for years. It's a long-time practice and has become a working condition."

Question: Does management have the right to revoke the coffee making privilege?

Expert's opinion: Hammer discussed the workers' objection with Corporate Attorney Ellen Weiss who felt the mandate was justified. "When the employees' request to use their own machines was granted, it was in response to a situation that existed at the time and no longer applies. It is now deemed beneficial to both the company and employees for vending machines to be installed, an arrangement that's impossible so long as employee machines are permitted. While it's true that long-time practice is sometimes sacrosanct and irrevocable, in this case I think we're within our rights."

No comments
The Top Plant program honors outstanding manufacturing facilities in North America. View the 2013 Top Plant.
The Product of the Year program recognizes products newly released in the manufacturing industries.
The Engineering Leaders Under 40 program identifies and gives recognition to young engineers who...
A cool solution: Collaboration, chemistry leads to foundry coat product development; See the 2015 Product of the Year Finalists
Raising the standard: What's new with NFPA 70E; A global view of manufacturing; Maintenance data; Fit bearings properly
Sister act: Building on their father's legacy, a new generation moves Bales Metal Surface Solutions forward; Meet the 2015 Engineering Leaders Under 40
Cyber security cost-efficient for industrial control systems; Extracting full value from operational data; Managing cyber security risks
Drilling for Big Data: Managing the flow of information; Big data drilldown series: Challenge and opportunity; OT to IT: Creating a circle of improvement; Industry loses best workers, again
Pipeline vulnerabilities? Securing hydrocarbon transit; Predictive analytics hit the mainstream; Dirty pipelines decrease flow, production—pig your line; Ensuring pipeline physical and cyber security
Upgrading secondary control systems; Keeping enclosures conditioned; Diagnostics increase equipment uptime; Mechatronics simplifies machine design
Designing positive-energy buildings; Ensuring power quality; Complying with NFPA 110; Minimizing arc flash hazards
Building high availability into industrial computers; Of key metrics and myth busting; The truth about five common VFD myths

Annual Salary Survey

After almost a decade of uncertainty, the confidence of plant floor managers is soaring. Even with a number of challenges and while implementing new technologies, there is a renewed sense of optimism among plant managers about their business and their future.

The respondents to the 2014 Plant Engineering Salary Survey come from throughout the U.S. and serve a variety of industries, but they are uniform in their optimism about manufacturing. This year’s survey found 79% consider manufacturing a secure career. That’s up from 75% in 2013 and significantly higher than the 63% figure when Plant Engineering first started asking that question a decade ago.

Read more: 2014 Salary Survey: Confidence rises amid the challenges

Maintenance and reliability tips and best practices from the maintenance and reliability coaches at Allied Reliability Group.
The One Voice for Manufacturing blog reports on federal public policy issues impacting the manufacturing sector. One Voice is a joint effort by the National Tooling and Machining...
The Society for Maintenance and Reliability Professionals an organization devoted...
Join this ongoing discussion of machine guarding topics, including solutions assessments, regulatory compliance, gap analysis...
IMS Research, recently acquired by IHS Inc., is a leading independent supplier of market research and consultancy to the global electronics industry.
Maintenance is not optional in manufacturing. It’s a profit center, driving productivity and uptime while reducing overall repair costs.
The Lachance on CMMS blog is about current maintenance topics. Blogger Paul Lachance is president and chief technology officer for Smartware Group.