The purpose of this paper is to provide evidence on how smart manufacturing (SM) affects work organization at both micro-level – i.e. work design, described in terms of operator job breadth and autonomy, cognitive demand and social interaction – and at macro-level – i.e. organizational structure, described in terms of centralization of decision making and number of hierarchical levels in the plant.
The paper reports on a multiple-case study of 19 companies implementing SM.
Results present four main configurations differing in terms of technological complexity, and micro and macro work organization.
The paper contributes to the academic debate about the interplay between technology and work organization in the context of SM, specifically the authors find that the level of technology complexity relates to different characteristics of micro and macro work organization in the plant.
Findings offer valuable insights for practice, with implications for the design of operator jobs, skills and plant organizational structure, in light of the challenges generated by the implementation of SM technology. Guidelines on how policymakers can foster the implementation of SM technology to enhance social sustainability are proposed.
This study advances a novel focus in studying SM, i.e. work organization implications of this new manufacturing paradigm instead of its mere technological implications.
The authors kindly acknowledge Laboratorio CISL Industria 4.0, and in particular Luigi Campagna and Luciano Pero as Scientific Committee (together with Emilio Bartezzaghi) for the possibility to use the empirical data coming from their research project.
Cagliano, R., Canterino, F., Longoni, A. and Bartezzaghi, E. (2019), "The interplay between smart manufacturing technologies and work organization: The role of technological complexity", International Journal of Operations & Production Management, Vol. 39 No. 6/7/8, pp. 913-934. https://doi.org/10.1108/IJOPM-01-2019-0093
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