Tulsa's American Airlines employees helping the company rebuild

Tuesday, September 28th 2004, 11:14 am
By: News On 6

Tulsa's largest employer is not resting on its laurels after winning-back a major contract. American Airlines' maintenance base is part of a massive "re-tooling" effort, to prove US workers can still be the best, fastest and most efficient in the world.

News on 6 anchor Tami Marler explains.

It's a fact of life; US businesses compete in a global economy, where less-skilled workers in other countries work for a fraction of what Americans earn. US corporations are seizing the savings, but the world's largest airline is looking for ways to buck the outsourcing trend.

American Airlines employee Bill Hash: "Naturally anytime you can have more work in a company and get some of the people we've got laid-off right now back and get more money to spread around Tulsa, that's gotta be a better deal for everybody."

American Airlines employees have been through a difficult transition, near-certain bankruptcy, hundreds of layoffs and salary and benefit cuts. Their tenacity helped to win-back a prized contract to work-on General Electric engines. American's philosophy of "continuous improvement," lets employees decide how to improve quality and efficiency, with surprisingly simple answers, like a mobile cart, that helped one division shave 36% of "travel time" between workers and their tools.

American has effectively turned the Management Model upside-down. Workers are calling the shots, making sure all of their systems are working as quickly and efficiently as possible, so workers in Tulsa can compete on a global scale.

“The traditional role of management is to tell people what to do. This changes the whole dimension completely. It requires a shift from us as managers, but it also requires our professionals to think a new way. Over the span of two weeks, you have the ability to change the world; especially the one around you." Oliver Martin says American is changing a culture that's taken 70 years to build, capitalizing on the employees who helped to build it.

American Airlines officials say allowing employees to contribute to "constant improvement"; will help the company to reduce cost and waste, which is important when you consider the industry's largest expense. Jet fuel prices are skyrocketing, so airlines are trimming wherever they can.