Term Paper: Electrical and Electronic Waste

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Electronic Waste

Adoption of Cross-Functional Teams in Electrical and Electronic Waste (E-Waste) Management

Creating teams across departmental and functional boundaries of an organization is essential if the most complex, challenging objectives are going to be attained. Cross-functional teams designed to capitalize on the unique strengths of each department often require its participants to hold two or more roles or series of tasks and responsibilities. Experts in engineering, product development, product management or services are often recruited into cross-functional teams due to their levels of expertise. This presents a challenge however in keeping existing initiatives, strategies and programs moving forward because of the dual responsibilities that key members of these functional departments have in cross-functional teams. Managing cross-functional teams takes a unique leadership skill set that can balance the needs of team members who have many responsibilities in their primary roles, in addition to the responsibilities that being a member of a cross-functional team demands. This apparent conflict of roles can be minimized through transformational leadership strategies and techniques that seek to create consistency across both roles (Feng, Jiang, Fan, Fu, 2010).

Due to headcount reductions and massive layoffs, cross-functional organizations that rely on this matrixed structure have become commonplace in global business (Dayan, Basarir, 2010). Compounding the severity of headcount reductions has also been the priority of getting organizations into compliance with sustainability and green initiatives (Boks, Stevels, 2007). A critical area of sustainability and green initiatives continues to be planning product lines and services for compliance to government regulations on how best to manage electrical and electronic waste (Kunert, 2005). Cross-functional teams have emerged as critically important to company's efforts to attain a high degree of compliance to electrical and electronic waste management initiatives globally (Mascle, Zhao, 2008) (Zhu, Sarkis, Lai, Geng, 2008).

The intent of this analysis is to illustrate why it is critical for organizations to rely on cross-functional teams to attain their objectives for managing electrical and electronic waste management. When taken as a lifecycle-based approach that includes Design for Environment (DfE), the use of cross-functional teams successfully can launch, sustain, support and discontinue products that are in compliance to electrical and electronic waste management standards. Making sustainability or environmental compliance a core part of new product development also ensures a higher level of compliance to electrical and electronic waste management standards (Albino, Balice, Dangelico, 2009). For all of these benefits to be attained however, it takes a concerted effort on the part of organizations to integrate Design for Environment (DfE) processes and systems into their Product Lifecycle Management (PLM) systems and into their product management strategies (Boks, Stevels, 2007). Given how diverse the skills sets are that are required to manage the entire product lifecycle management process, cross-functional teams are the only viable alternative for attaining sustainability and green initiatives organization-wide.

Why Collaboration Is Essential for E-Waste Initiatives to Succeed

By their very nature, the processes organizations rely on to attain their e-waste goals and objectives are highly collaborative. The point has been made of how collaborative the Product Lifecycle Management (PLM) process is, which to succeed requires intensive coordination and synchronization across the functional areas of an organization. The catalyst of PLM strategies that ensures they stay in compliance to e-waste compliance goals and objectives is the Design for Environment (DfE) processes defined later in this analysis. For PLM strategies to have a foundation on which to build upon however, it is essential for the supply chain partner and processes be consistent with the sustainability objectives that an organization is trying to reach. This is really the external cross-functional team of an organization. The supply chain is a broader cross-functional team that needs to be managed to specific sustainability and e-waste program objectives as well. The most critical process from an e-waste perspective is the use of the supply chain for reverse logistics. The areas of reverse logistics concentrate on creating a tight integration at the process and system level with a manufacturer to attain e-waste objectives over the long-term. (Dowlatshahi, 2000). Cross-functional teams within an organization are heavily relied on suppliers and the entire supply chain to provide assistance in keeping in compliance to e-waste initiatives and programs. This is a knowledge management issue and the greater the level of it in a cords-functional team, the greater the level of supplier integration and performance (Chae, 2009). For a reverse logistics strategy to be effective, it must take into account the unique and highly specific knowledge of an organization. Only through the use of a cross-functional team can any organization communicate accurately, succinctly and quickly with supply chain partners so they can get into compliance with e-waste goals and objectives. Manufacturers are seeing significant cost and revenue gains from perfecting their reverse logistics processes while also attaining their e-waste strategic plans and objectives (Dowlatshahi, 2000). Studies of the use of cross-functional teams to attain the difficult goals of integrating DfE into PLM strategies also show that the primary catalyst is knowledge, not necessarily cost reduction or just business process management and re-engineering that makes these complex strategies succeed (Mascle, Zhao, 2008).

Knowledge is the catalyst of successful e-waste program performance. It is also best captured, managed and applied to complex problems and strategies including e-waste compliance and cost reduction through cross-functional teams. Attempts to use knowledge management systems and platforms have failed due to lack of adoption and resistance to change they push on the experts whose participation in them is crucial (Chang, Chen, Lin, Tien, Sheu, 2006). Supply chain planning, coordination, management and optimization all are foundational areas of how suppliers make the attainment of e-waste initiatives succeed. The catalyst for all these coordination points outside of an organization is knowledge, and that is precisely why cross-functional teams are critical to companies attaining their e-waste strategic plans and objectives.

In analyzing just how critical the knowledge from cross-functional teams are to the attainment of e-waste objectives, consider the complexity of the reverse logistics process as shown in Figure 1, Reverse Logistics process Workflows.

Figure 1: Reverse Logistics Process Workflow

Source: (Dowlatshahi 2000, et.al.)

Manufacturers rely on reverse logistics to reduce long-term operating and production costs, attain higher levels of e-waste compliance including recycling a progressively higher level of their products, and the use of sustainability programs for packaging re-use. As a result of these three objectives being successfully attained in many high tech manufacturers specifically (Lau, Wang, 2009), reverse logistics is now the most important supply chain process that manufacturers concentrate on to attain e-waste initiatives.

As can be seen from Figure 1, Reverse Logistics Process Workflow, this process is heavily dependent on the level of knowledge and intelligence within an organization. The use of cost/benefit analysis tools and databases of results, transportation and warehouse management systems and strategies which are among the most complex in any organization, and supply management all require intensive expertise to be integrated into reverse logistics processes. The use of cross-functional teams to bring the critical insight and expertise to these areas literally makes them achievable or not. Without cross-functional teams and the expertise inherent in them, reverse logistics -- a core aspect of any e-waste program -- would not be accomplishable. Adding in the two remaining functional areas of remanufacturing/recycling and packaging completes process areas of reverse logistics. Each of these areas of a reverse logistics strategy also has a corresponding series of steps to make e-waste processes successfully replicated over an entire manufacturing organizations' supply chain.

To the extent any organization can infuse a high degree of knowledge and insight into these processes and share that intelligence with suppliers is the extent to which they will be trusted or not (Cheng, Yeh, Tu, 2008). While critics and detractors of cross-functional teams often criticize them for not being more equitable in the distribution of work across matrix-based organization, the heard reality is that the expertise they deliver can make the difference between an organization being seen as credible or not. In this context, insight and intelligence leads to not only greater supply chain flexibility and agility between suppliers and buyers (Chang, Chen, Lin, Tien, Sheu, 2006) but also accelerates transactions through greater trust (Cheng, Yeh, Tu, 2008).

Do cross-functional teams matter to e-waste initiatives and programs' success? Without question, they are an essential catalyst to their success given how critical the role of the company- and industry-specific knowledge they possess. There is literally no other organizational strategy or approach to managing resources apart from cross-functional teams for bringing together the diverse, in-depth and extensive intelligence necessary for companies to attain their e-waste goals and objectives. It is not just the cross-functional team that ensures the success of e-waste programs however; it is the knowledge, insight, expertise and experiences they have that can transform an entire supply chain and PLM strategy to attain e-waste initiatives.

Put Cross-Functional Intelligence to Work in PLM Strategies

Supply chains encompass the most complex relationships manufacturers have a direct impact on attaining compliance to WEEE and RoHS Standards (Kunert, 2005) while also accelerating… [END OF PREVIEW]

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