Journal of Organizational Behavior

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Volume 8 Issue 3 (July 1987), Pages fmi-fmi, 187-275

Advanced manufacturing technology and work simplification: An empirical study (pages 233-250)

Abstract

This paper is concerned with the effects of advanced manufacturing technology on shopfloor operator jobs and work attitudes. A strong line of argument from labour process theory suggests that such technology will simplify and deskill jobs, and reduce the quality or working life. This proposition was explored within a large electronics company which assembles computer boards, where two different applications of information technology have been experienced. These were compared with two traditional manual assembly jobs. Assessment of job content, perceived job characteristics and operator work attitudes, showed no uniform deskilling effects of advanced manufacturing technologies. Much larger differences existed both between the different new technology applications and between the traditional jobs. This demonstrates that choice of technology is important to skill use and employees' attitudes, as are the choices for the organization of work around it. These are not uniform processes even within a single organization. Experience of operating advanced manufacturing technology was also accompanied by more positive views concerning its impact on the shopfloor.

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