Case | HBS Case Collection | May 1994 (Revised August 1994)

Motorola-Penang

by Shoshana Zuboff and Janis Lee Gogan

Abstract

S.K. Ko managed Motorola's Penang, Malaysia factory, producing telecommunications components and equipment. As a female manager of a multi-ethnic and labor-intensive plant in Asia, Ko faced a number of challenges. She had already promoted quality circles and quality competitions to meet Motorola's raised standards. Extensive training gave workers the skills to solve problems and to troubleshoot equipment. But Ko was skeptical of empowerment efforts at other Motorola sites that aimed for much greater worker participation in decision making. She thought empowerment inappropriate to the Asian context. She also thought that many operators would have trouble upgrading their skills as the world became more information intensive. Other Southeast Asian nations with lower labor costs were a competitive threat to Penang's labor-intensive processes. She envisioned Penang transformed by the year 2000 into a fully automated manufacturing operation and a design center for all of Motorola's Asian operations.

Keywords: Factories, Labs, and Plants; Transformation; Decision Making; Ethnicity Characteristics; Gender Characteristics; Training; Leading Change; Management Analysis, Tools, and Techniques; Problems and Challenges; Technology Industry; Malaysia;

Citation:

Zuboff, Shoshana, and Janis Lee Gogan. "Motorola-Penang." Harvard Business School Case 494-135, May 1994. (Revised August 1994.)