ICI Films - Case Study

ICI Films Americas - Highlights of Results

-$16 Million
$78 Million
39% RONA
Autocratic Hierarchy
Empowered, Self-Directed Work Teams
#3 in Industry
  • #1 in Industry
  • Most Profitable
  • Best in Customer Service
Mediocre Safety, Health
Best SHE in ICI & Environment (SHE) Worldwide Record

Performance Improvement Project

ICI Films Americas, the world’s leading producer of high image data and polyester films, employs 1,000 workers in multiple locations, generating revenues of approximately $300,000,000.  Over the last four years, ICI Films Americas has doubled its return on net assets (RONA).  In addition, ICI Films Americas enjoys a strong reputation for employing distinguished development experts and conducting top scientific research.

ICI Films Americas became a client of Tor Dahl & Associates in 1991.  At that time, ICI Films Americas was trailing its rivals, DuPont and Hoechst.  Competitive products were beginning to emerge from Korea and Indonesia, priced at half the cost and poised for distribution throughout key international markets.  ICI Films Americas was facing a crisis, further complicated by a recent reorganization and low morale.

With the help of Tor Dahl & Associates, ICI Films Americas mapped its challenges:  achieving cost effectiveness, uncovering and implementing competitive advantage, and creating a culture that could readily adapt to a shifting marketplace.  The goal was not merely to shore up weak points or maintain the status quo, but to win a greater share of the market, and gain a dominant position.

The first six months of the Tor Dahl & Associates process uncovered the unique ICI Films Americas “log jam,” and targeted five “logs” for immediate action:  Customer Development and Support; Production Methods and Processes; Business Planning and Growth; Information, Communication, and Teamwork; and Employee Development and Empowerment.

With hands-on guidance and facilitation from Tor Dahl & Associates, ICI Films Americas developed and implemented specific project plans to address these five areas.  The results were dramatic:  ICI Films Americas improved productivity by approximately 25%, became a dominant market leader, dramatically improved profitability, and successfully engaged all employees in making change.

Technology Transfer

Change is not a single event, but an ongoing process.  The challenge is to continually read the market — to anticipate your competition.  In 1993, ICI Films Americas anticipated the need to prepare for a market shift.  The company’s premier plant in Hopewell, Virginia, determined to meet the influx of less expensive foreign film products in the marketplace with a dramatic reduction of cost.  Tor Dahl & Associates was called on a second time to apply its process and identify the means to successful change.  This time, however, ICI Films Americas capitalized on the opportunity to develop their own internal High Performance Team (HPT).

A team of fifteen members was assembled, including the plant manager, chief financial officer, several human resource professionals, process engineers, information management systems specialists, and a small support staff.  Tor Dahl & Associates worked closely with the team, providing one-on-one training and certification, supplemented by manuals, videos, and 24-hour support services.

The High Performance Team learned to conduct in-depth interviews, perform comprehensive data analysis, and develop and implement customized surveys.  Team members could replicate every step of the Tor Dahl & Associates process — from leading seminars on cost effectiveness, competitive advantage and cultural change, to developing and delivering major problem-solving sessions known as “boot camps”.  ICI Films Americas gained all the technology necessary to manage projects skillfully, apply state-of-the-art communication methods, and facilitate successful change.

Working side by side with Tor Dahl & Associates, within six months the High Performance Team was fully trained and certified to replicate the change process.  Within one year, the team had implemented a high performance project which cut the cost of ICI Americas film by nearly 40%.  ICI Americas also profited from the development of self-managed work teams, enhanced cross-functional teamwork and customer support, and increased capacity and market share.

The process was led by the plant manager, Ian Torrance, and assisted by the chief financial officer, Dennis Lancaster

Letter From Sherri Cook
Former Member of ICI Films’ High Performance Team
Date:  April 25, 2000

Hi!  It was so good to hear from you.  I miss the contact with the group up there.  I hope everyone is doing fine.  Tell them all hello for me.  

Don’t get me started on the High Performance Team and the TDA process — I miss that job so much.

As far as the effect of the TDA process on my job, I guess I would have to say that I felt that I had more control.  I was able to make decisions that would make it easier and more rewarding.  I was empowered (there’s that word again) to be able to use the Freeing of Resource principles where I felt they were needed — and my opinions were actually listened to.  

One of the actions from an event was to form a Support Group for the Administrative Assistants, and I think it actually helped a lot.  We were able to combat some problems as a group, share what was going on, and offer suggestions to each other.  Management actually used us from time to time to implement changes or to come up with ideas.  The group has eventually fallen apart over the past couple of years, but we do still meet for dinner once a month to celebrate birthdays for that month.  Guess that shows that even though the group didn’t fit into the new culture, the bond that was made is still there.

As far as the job itself?  It was so great.  I was involved in the process from beginning to end, and it was wonderful just watching it unfold. Planning it was exciting — the location selection, the food, the props.  I was able to meet so many different people everywhere.  Even though it was hectic and stressful at times, I think that I actually thrived in that atmosphere.  

I loved the interviewing part because I actually felt like I was doing some good — sometimes maybe just giving the people an outlet to vent their frustrations.  But it was something they desperately needed.  And participating in the actual events, just watching the participants go from sheer frustration on the first day (let’s face it, word-smithing a Future Statement is no picnic), to excitement and to a sense  of a light at the end of the tunnel.  It was great!  And watching people open up and let loose was wonderful. To see the uptight, quiet sorts that actually came out of their shells to do a skit was amazing.

I think that the greatest part of the TDA process was the fact that everyone felt they had a say in what was happening.  You didn’t have the Upper Management dictating to the production floor the changes that were going to be made.  The Production Floor personnel were the ones who actually did the jobs day to day.  They were able to give suggestions and voice their opinions, and it gave them a sense of belonging and ownership.

I think that the greatest thing I can say that happened to me personally because of TDA & the High Performance Team was that it made me “step out of my box — my comfort zone,” and realize that I was actually capable of so much more that I ever thought.  

But it has also made it very difficult to step into another culture where I have to draw in the reins.  It made me the type of person who can’t just sit back with tied hands.  I am not afraid to speak up or look for opportunities to make my job more fulfilling, and not “just a job”.

Ok, I will come down off of my soap box now and get back to the real world. Can you tell that I really miss the High Performance Team?  We had a wonderful time and worked great together (most of the time).

Hope you have a great summer — and tell everyone hello for me!  Who knows, maybe one day my current employer will decide to have a HPT.