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Case Study #2:  American Tool and Die (Due Week 6)

As the sun rose on a crisp fall morning, Kelly Mueller’s Learjet touched down onto a small airstrip outside Tupelo, Mississippi, and taxied toward the hangar, where a festive crowd gathered to await the arrival of Toyota’s CEO. This morning, the governor of Mississippi, along with local politicians and business leaders from the automobile industry, would celebrate the construction of a new Toyota plant on a 1,700-acre site in Blue Springs. The new plant would produce 150,000 Highlander sport utility vehicles each year. The energy and enthusiasm of the crowd was palpable. The new plant would give hope to a local community that had been hit hard by the recession.

The purpose of Mueller’s visit was to assess new business opportunities for the company she ran for her father, Vince Brofft, CEO of American Tool & Die (AT&D). Mueller joined the company in 1998 after working for 15 years as an engineer at two U.S. automakers. Then, after seven successful years as chief operations officer at AT&D, this scrappy dynamo convinced her father she was ready to be president. Energetic and tireless, Mueller took over the helm of AT&D, an auto parts manufacturer that sold braking and ignition systems directly to the top three U.S. automakers. Mueller was a mover and while she did her homework she liked to make decisions quickly and by herself. Having worked in large organizations before she often had to make decisions with others and while she could do this the thought that she would get to do things on her own in the small business was intoxicating. With 195 employees, AT&D was located in Farmington Hills, Michigan, among dozens of other automobile parts suppliers in the Upper Midwest. AT&D, established in 1912 by Mueller’s great uncle, had a long history in Farmington Hills. Mueller had often talked with employees who would recount stories about their fathers or grandfathers working in the same Farmington Hills plant—the last of the original manufacturing operations in town.

Mueller was in Mississippi to research moving AT&D’s plant close to a foreign automaker. The foreign automakers, particularly Honda and Toyota, had been quickly grabbing market share away from the big three automakers, who had severely cut production as the economy worsened. As inventory started stacking up on dealer lots, U.S. automakers curtailed production in order to cope with the sudden drop in demand. Next, they put the squeeze on parts suppliers to lower prices. That’s when AT&D leaders started feeling the crunch and watching their financial picture turn grim.

Mueller faced an unprecedented challenge to survive this economic downturn and save her family’s company. She pleaded with her father to think creatively and shake up the status quo at AT&D to avoid bankruptcy. Her plan was to forge into new markets and court foreign automakers. This plan would require closing the plant in Michigan and opening one near the new Toyota facilities in Mississippi. Her father adamantly resisted this plan even though he knew she was right. “Dad,” a recent text message explained, “we have opportunities here in Mississippi. There’s no future in Michigan. We can’t sit around waiting for the big three to come back! It’s adapt or die!”

Back at the Farmington Hills plant, Brofft pondered his daughter’s “adapt or die” theory and considered an alternative to moving the plant to Mississippi—a move that would cause 195 employees to lose their livelihood in a small, close-knit community. Brofft agonized over choices that could dismantle a company that his family had built. He was sickened by the prospect of laying off employees who were like family. He didn’t want to move but the thought of leaving Michigan was paralyzing the decision process. He always made decisions in the past by consulting with his plant manager and good friend Joe Carney. Now he had to let his daughter in on the process and he just wasn’t sure he could open his mind to her ideas. As an alternative to moving the plant, Brofft considered ways to stay in Michigan. The only feasible option was to drastically cut payroll costs. To do so, he needed support from the local union.

Brofft called a meeting with the plant manager and union leaders to explain AT&D’s dire financial situation. He urged them to make concessions in the employee compensation agreement and explained that these plans would save the company from certain bankruptcy. Assuming he could win their support, Brofft proposed three strategies to the local union reps to keep the company financially afloat: (1) reduce worker wages by 10 percent for one year; (2) mandate a two-week, unpaid furlough at the end of December; and (3) downsize the number of employees by 30 percent. Exasperated, the local union leaders could barely restrain their anger. They were adamantly opposed to all three ideas. Yet probing beyond the fray, Brofft sensed the fear that lurked under the union reps’ gruff exterior. He sensed their vulnerability, but could not break through the reactionary bark that protected it. If union leaders would not cooperate, the plant would have to move and everyone in Farmington Hills would suffer.

In the meantime, Mueller held several successful presentations with local Toyota executives while in Mississippi. “I’ve made progress, Dad,” she said in a voice mail. “I can tell it’s going to be a long and drawn-out process, but they are very impressed with our product and historical strength. They’ve agreed to another meeting next month.”

Sources: Karen E. Klein, “Survival Advice for Auto Parts Suppliers,” BusinessWeek (June 16, 2009), http://www (accessed November 12, 2009); Amy Barrett, “Auto-Parts Suppliers Brace for Downturn,” BusinessWeek (February 13, 2009); (accessed November 12, 2009); and Toyota, .com (accessed November 12, 2009


In week four we examined biases that occur in making decisions as individuals and the effect they can have upon the process. In week five, we focused on individuals making decisions within an organization and in week six group decision making within the organization.  

The purpose of this assignment is to have the student demonstrate how individuals and groups can have differing ways of making decisions and when each should be used in business to its best effect.


Step 1: Review “How to Analyze a Case Study” under Week 4 Content.

Step 2:  Create a Word or Rich Text Format (RTF) document that is double-spaced, 12-point font.  The final product will be between 5-6 pages in length excluding the title page and reference page.

Step 3: Review the grading rubric for the assignment

Step 4:  Follow this format:

  • Title page with title, your name, the course, the instructor’s name;
  • Introduction paragraph in which the decision process is described and its significance in business. The introductory paragraph is the first paragraph of the paper but is typically written after writing the body of the paper (Questions students responded to above).  View this website to learn how to write an introductory paragraph:
  • Body Paragraphs
  • Summary paragraph. A summary paragraph restates the main idea(s) of the essay.  Make sure to leave a reader with a sense that the essay is complete.  The summary paragraph is the last paragraph of a paper.

Step 5:  In writing a case study, the writing is in the third person.  What this means is that there are no words such as “I, me, my, we, or us” (first person writing), nor is there use of “you or your” (second person writing).  If uncertain how to write in the third person, view this link:

Step 6:  In writing this assignment, students are asked to support the reasoning using in-text citations and a reference list.  A reference within a reference list cannot exist without an associated in-text citation and vice versa.  View the sample APA paper under Week 1 content.

Step 7:  In writing this assignment, students are expected to paraphrase and not use direct quotes.  Learn to paraphrase by reviewing this link:

Step 8:  Read critically and analyze the scenario provided under Week 6 Content. 

Step 9:  Write down or highlight key facts from the scenario.  Consider making an outline to capture key points in the paper. 

Step 10:  In your paper, respond to the following elements of decision making:

  • Apply the decision process to create a decision statement;
  • Explain the factors in play for the father and daughter that could affect the decision making;
  • Explain the pros and cons of group and individual decision making;
  • Explain the factors (e.g. bias, consequences, decision making styles) at work in the case for the could affect decision making for a team;
  • Discuss the authority the team should have and why.  Discuss the best type of group decision making team for this situation. Who should comprise the team;

Step 11: Using the grading rubric as a comparison, read through the paper to ensure all required elements are presented.

Step 12: Proofread the paper for spelling and grammatical issues, and third person writing. 

Rubric Name: Assignment #2

Overall Score

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