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A comparative analysis of evolution of lean production in the international automotive industry in Britain and Poland

Stewart, Paul and Danford, Andy and Mrozowicki, Adam and Murphy, Kenny (2013) A comparative analysis of evolution of lean production in the international automotive industry in Britain and Poland. In: GERPISA 21st Annual Colloquium, 2013-06-12 - 2013-06-14. (Unpublished)

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In this presentation of work in progress we want to report on initial findings of research conducted at General Motors UK and Poland; BMW-UK; VW Poland. We report on the development of a range of managerial practices at the workplace level in Poland and the UK (four plants in total) often described as lean production techniques. We examine these with respect to their impact on employees' perceptions of quality of work life (viz; work intensification/stress); involvement/engagement; skill, training and their relationship to participation; management control (autonomy/bullying-mobbing). While advocates of lean have argued consistently that with the right management in the right place, lean will prevail, no evidence has ever been advanced demonstrating the higher levels of employee satisfaction in lean regimes. This is not surprising for at least two reasons. In contrast to the ideology of lean, the impact of systems so defined is deleterious to worker health and the quality of the ir life at work. While there are variations with and between the plants in our study, nevertheless, the data highlights the growing disjuncture between claims and evidence. We say 'growing' because while we have known from the evidence of this and other sectors for some time, that what managers terms compromises workers’ quality of life at work, the gap is not in the credibility but in the growing body of evidence. Thus, we seek to highlight both the character of the variation in lean practices across and within plants together with the ideological role of lean. Our methodology included questionnaires and interviews with employees and union officials in four companies (GM-UK & Poland; BMW-UK; WV Poland).