Competing via Alternative Work Organizations: The Case of Car Assembly in Sweden
Since the early 1970s there have been dramatic changes in the way assembly work has been organized in Sweden, challenging the conventional wisdom regarding the way in which work is best organized for the production of high volume complex products.
Generally, the alternative forms of work organization adopted involve extending the work cycle and the rearrangement of production facilities to allow greater operator flexibility and autonomy. This approach contrasts with the conventional view which advocates deskilling work into short cycle time tasks which are performed repeatedly on a continuously moving flowline.
Despite these clear differences, however, both approaches claim to be based on a common premise: that they constitute the most effective means of mass producing complex products to competitive advantage.
This being the case, why are there such marked differences in the two approaches? This paper addresses that question by examining the case of one particular industry, namely motor car production. In Sweden this industry is not unique in adopting alternative forms of assembly organization. There are many other cases of work reorganization in industries as diverse as capital equipment manufacture and electronics. The assembly of cars and their components, however, is an important activity within the Swedish economy and provides ample illustrative cases of the various organizational options available to production system designers.
KeywordsFinal Assembly Work Cycle Assembly Plant Assembly Work Body Shop
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