Friday, June 22, 2012
A few days after the branch manager informed me about the visit of the Deputy Managing Director and the Circulation Manager to the branch office, they came to the dispatch section one day along with the branch manager. I had already met the Circulation Manger a few times, and after the formal greetings, they went into the press to have a look at the working of the new printing press and then came into the dispatch section and observed the work in the dispatch section.
After observing the smooth and efficient work of the new printing machine, if one comes to the dispatch section, it would be a picture of perfect contrast with papers strewn all over near the conveyor.
Of course, they could not scold me for the mess that they were witnessing as they knew the reasons very well. In fact, I was very skeptical of the visit if they thought that they could make a decision about the increase in the strength of dispatch workers only after observing the work.
Even though the speed of the machine was around 40,000 copies per hour, so far, they had been running it at around 25,000 to 30,000 copies per hour. Still, this was nearly two times the speed of the previous machine. But on that day, they were running the machine at the maximum possible speed to display their department’s skill and expertise to the Deputy Managing Director, and it had been almost two months since the commissioning of the machine and they had full control of its function, which advantage they had used to the maximum extent possible.
In the presence of top management of the company, people in one department would like to show off their efficiency, and at the same time try to expose the deficiency in the work of other departments if possible to emphasize the importance of their department in the overall functioning of the company. This is natural for men in every profession. Based on that idea, the press people ran the press at the maximum speed, and the dispatch workers could not handle such work, and there was a heap of around 1000 copies strewn around the conveyor haphazardly when the printing of the Kerala edition was over. These copies must be stacked, counted in 25s, and sent to labeling and then packing and dispatch. Out of total six transports for Kerala, only two had left at this time, while normally four transports would have left after loading the parcels at the end of printing of Kerala edition.
After the printing of the Kerala edition was over, the press people came out and asked me (much more loudly than usual) whether the copies were enough for me and whether they can start the printing of the Tamil Nadu edition. This was to show to the top management that their department was doing their part of work fine and that the other department was lacking in their work.
The Circulation Manger asked me, “Nandagopal, what is happening?” I informed him about the present strength of 17 (or 19) workers in the dispatch section was not enough to handle such a huge increase in the work and that I needed at least six workers more to manage the increased work due to the installation of the new machine.
As if offering as a solution to the problem, he asked me just to count the copies and stack them in 25s first and clear the table for stacking the Tamil Nadu edition copies and give okay to the press. He then asked me how long it will take to finish this work, and I informed him that 10 minutes would be enough for this. He told the press people to start printing the Tamil Nadu edition after 10 minutes, and he asked me to finish the packing and dispatch work of Kerala edition while the printing of the Tamil Nadu goes on. After this, he went to the Managing Director, and they talked for a while, and they left the press as if they had come here and solved a problem in one of their department! Nothing more was said about the increase in the strength of the dispatch workers.
What he told me was what we had been doing since commissioning of the new machine. Only this time, as the press people ran the press at a higher speed than they usually do, there was a delay of more than 10 to 15 minutes in finishing the work of Kerala edition packing and dispatch as we had been doing since the commissioning of the new press. I expected him to make a decision then and there to increase the strength of the dispatch workers, but he did not do that.
After a few days, the increase in the strength of the dispatch workers was sanctioned and I was very disappointed about the way in which the management of the company handled this issue.
After this incident, the admiration and respect I had for The Hindu had fallen to a very low level. I had been a reader of The Hindu since my college days from 1973 because I have always considered The Hindu as the best newspaper in India. It has set up a very high standard in Journalism in its more than 100 years of its history. But I did not expect such an objectionable level of management practices from this company. Of course, one cannot expect everyone working in a company living up to its high standards, but I did not expect the top management of the company passively accepting such attitudes from its mangers and encouraging them in such management activities.
In this context, I had also made a suggestion to the branch manager for improving the efficiency of the working of the dispatch section.
If the press is run at its maximum capacity, as it was done during the visit of the top management of the company, and if the company wanted to use the new machine to its maximum potential, even increasing the workers to more than 23 (or at a maximum 25) would not make a sound business sense because more space would be needed for the dispatch work and there was not much space in the premises in which the press was situated then. In this context, I suggested the idea of machine packing of parcels of 100 copies and the rest by manual packing.
The complete packing by machine was not that much easier because there were a large number of parcels of copies of 3, 4, 5 and also parcels between 10 and 20 were also large in number. This would make complete automation an arduous or almost an impossible task. But if packing a few parcels of 100 copies for Kerala, Tamil Nadu, and city editions was done by machine, it would reduce to a great extent the work of collecting and stacking the copies from the conveyor and packing those parcels. It would also help me to run the dispatch work with just 21 workers and also help me to send the transports much more quickly than with 23 people working in the dispatch section.
When I suggested this to the branch manager, he immediately rejected the proposal saying that the head office would not accept it. He even did not take the trouble of suggesting the proposal to the head office and take a chance of finding whether the head office would accept this. I realized at that time suggesting any idea for improving the work in the dispatch section to him would be useless.
In my future posts, I will write more about the manager and his handling of the dispatch work and my struggle for a news agency for The Hindu.