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“Power to the workers”: Empowering shop floor workers with worker-centric digital designs

Michael Leyer (University of Rostock, Rostock, Germany)
Alexander Richter (IT-Universitetet i Kobenhavn, Kobenhavn, Denmark)
Melanie Steinhüser (Department of Informatics, Universität Zurich, Zürich, Switzerland)

International Journal of Operations & Production Management

ISSN: 0144-3577

Article publication date: 3 August 2018

Issue publication date: 7 January 2019

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Abstract

Purpose

The purpose of this paper is to reveal how information and communication technology (ICT) can empower shop floor workers in collaborative manufacturing environments.

Design/methodology/approach

The authors gather data from a mobile maintenance department of a steel manufacturing company and apply the method of a scenario-based design. The authors use data from interviews, observations and company documents to create problem and activity scenarios. The authors also demonstrate the development of a worker-centric digital design in multiple demonstration and evaluation cycles.

Findings

The authors find that ICT can be used to ensure that empowerment is not only a concept, but can sustainably empower daily operations.

Research limitations/implications

The authors contribute to theory by showing how structural empowerment can be used as a guiding theoretical lens to design ICT for shop floor workers in collaborative manufacturing work environments. These implications are limited to findings from a single case study.

Practical implications

The results provide an overview of different empowerment dimensions, namely, the access to information, resources, support and opportunities, that can support employees in collaborative manufacturing environments.

Originality/value

This paper is first in suggesting a framework of how ICT designs can be used to empower shop floor workers in collaborative manufacturing environments.

Keywords

Acknowledgements

This work was supported by the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation program (Grant Agreement No. 636778).

Citation

Leyer, M., Richter, A. and Steinhüser, M. (2019), "“Power to the workers”: Empowering shop floor workers with worker-centric digital designs", International Journal of Operations & Production Management, Vol. 39 No. 1, pp. 24-42. https://doi.org/10.1108/IJOPM-05-2017-0294

Publisher

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Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2019, Emerald Publishing Limited