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Reconstructing the history of the main Volvo Tuve plant: Some general trends, reasons and consequences for different assembly system designs

Tomas Engström (Department of Transportation and Logistics, Chalmers University of Technology, Gothenburg, Sweden)
Bo Blomquist (Department of Transportation and Logistics, Chalmers University of Technology, Gothenburg, Sweden)
Ove Holmström (The Volvo Metal Union, Gothenburg, Sweden)

International Journal of Operations & Production Management

ISSN: 0144-3577

Article publication date: 1 August 2004

Abstract

This paper reports on the history of the main Volvo Tuve truck plant in Gothenburg from its beginnings in 1981 until 2002. It focuses on the assembly work involved in the completion of truck chassis carried out by blue‐collar employees. Extensive (physical) alterations during this period have been important for understanding the plants' present design. The various designs of the assembly system, in combination with alterations and changes, have radically reformed the blue‐collar employee's work in a way that, in most respects, had not been intended. The ambitious guidelines, design assumptions and praxis of the early plant design which promoted collective dimensions of work have shifted to ones in which assembly work can be seen more as a set of individualised tasks. Moreover, the plant, which in earlier times had been small‐scale and utilised a heterogeneous assembly systems design, now has been transformed into a large‐scale plant with a homogenous assembly systems design. That is, to be more specific, two rather short assembly lines with intermediate buffers (1980s assembly systems design) were turned into the use of extended assembly lines without intermediate buffers (1990s assembly systems designs). The latter assembly systems were earlier working in coexistence with so‐called assembly docks (small work groups completed their own truck chassis). Lastly, these heterogeneous assembly systems designs were recently changed by further extension of the two main product flows and the assembly docks were closed down (2000s assembly system design). We argue that the choice of assembly systems designs was, and maybe still is, an ad hoc process and not a truly rational process. The history of the Volvo Tuve plant history illuminates how one specific plant can illustrate an uneven line of development with regard to assembly system design, within an organisation which successively has turned more international by an ongoing process of creating one single, larger scale, assembly system design. Thereby leaving behind the characteristics which were once a trademark of the Swedish automotive industry.

Keywords

Citation

Engström, T., Blomquist, B. and Holmström, O. (2004), "Reconstructing the history of the main Volvo Tuve plant: Some general trends, reasons and consequences for different assembly system designs", International Journal of Operations & Production Management, Vol. 24 No. 8, pp. 820-839. https://doi.org/10.1108/01443570410548248

Publisher

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Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2004, Emerald Group Publishing Limited