Effective organizations are always searching for better ways to produce goods and services. When new technological developments give some organizations a competitive advantage, their rivals try to catch up by adopting and improving on the new technologies. Ford has put many of Toyota's technical advances to work in its own plants, and General Motors has spent over $50 billion in the last decade to modernize its production facilities to develop skills in flexible manufacturing. In this paper we take a look at how Technology can affect the HR policies and strategies put in place by the company. This we do by putting down in detail the HR policies adopted by organisations with Advanced Manufacturing Technology in place.
What is Technology?
Technology is defined as the tools, instruments, machines, and technical formulas basic to the performance of the work. Research into the area of what technology is employed by the organisation has been carried out in the recent past. Woodward in 1965, Thompson in 1967, and Perrow in 1965 carried out the more prominent researches.
Mass Production to Advanced Manufacturing Technology
Mass production was pioneered by Henry Ford in the production of his now legendary car Ford Model-T. It allowed the production of large volumes of a standardized product at low cost and pursue a low-cost business-level strategy. To reduce costs, a mass production company must maximize the gains from economies of scale and from division of labor associated with large-scale production. There are two ways to do this. One is by using dedicated machines and standardized work procedures. The other is by protecting the conversion process against production slowdowns or stoppages. The high technical complexity, the routine nature of production tasks, and the sequential task interdependence make the system highly inflexible.
Input Stage Conversion Stage Output Stage
Inputs come from Suppliers Inputs are assembled into Finished products are
In advance and are stockpiled subassemblies and are put stockpiled until they in inventory for use by needed. They eventually
next Workstation are shipped to customers
Advanced Manufacturing Technology and Innovations in Materials Technology
Materials technology is machinery, other equipment, and computers. Innovations in materials technology are based on a new view of linkages between input, conversion and output activities. With AMT, the organization actively seeks ways to increase its ability to integrate or coordinate the flow of resources between input, conversion and output. AMT allows an organization to reduce uncertainty not by using inventory stockpiles but by developing the capacity to quickly adjust and control its procedures to eliminate the need for inventory at both input and output stage.
The Work Flow with Advanced Manufacturing Technology
Advanced Manufacturing Technology involves a lot of techniques such as:
? Computer Aided Design
? Computer Aided Materials Management ( CAMM )
? Just In Time ( JIT )Inventory Systems
? Flexible Manufacturing Technology and Computer-Integrated Manufacturing
Advanced Manufacturing Technology makes human skills all the more important.
When Advanced Manufacturing Technology is introduced into a workplace, the following are just some of the things which happen:
? Closer interdependence among activities
? Different skills requirements - usually higher average skill levels
? More immediate - and more costly - consequences of malfunction
? Output more sensitive to variations in human skills, knowledge, and attitudes, and to mental efforts rather than physical efforts.
? More dynamism, that is, continual change and development
? Higher capital investment per employee and fewer employees responsible for a particular product, part , or process
HR Strategies for an organisation having Advanced Manufacturing Technology.
To make Advanced Manufacturing Technology possible, the following are the sin qua non:
1. A highly skilled, flexible and committed work force
2. Lean, flat, flexible and innovative management
3. The ability to retain developed talent
4. A strong partnership between management and labour unions
Relative to the mass production organisations, high performing Advanced Manufacturing Technology firms should adopt more organic structures. This is to facilitate the spirit of innovation and efficiency. Delayering is the usual accompaniment of the adoption of the latest production technology.
With the advent of the latest technology, organisations have started replacing rigid, narrow jobs with broader ones to motivate workers and enhance operational flexibility. Broadening operating jobs to include functions that support staff has been handling, saves overhead and reduces waiting time. This change promotes a sense of ownership among workers.
The job design has to be quite different in an Advanced Manufacturing Technology led organisation from one led by the traditional Mass manufacturing one. Since automation will render many actions repetitive and monotonous, care should be taken to include in the job specifications as many small jobs as possible to reduce inattentiveness and boredom.
The new technology is also conducive to fewer job classifications. Reductions can occur because the activities involved in working with Advanced Manufacturing Technology -like monitoring and maintenance- are largely the same. So there's less need to differentiate among similar jobs throughout the factory.
Work Team Structure
Advanced Manufacturing Technology has resulted in the increase of teams on the shopfloor. This has come about due to a number of reasons. Interdependence makes it less feasible to hold people accountable for a single bounded task. Teams help create a sense of responsibility among lower level employees, a critical need of AMT.
Compensation & Appraisal
Changes in job design and work structure affect how employees are appraised and compensated at the plants. Policies concerning pay levels, salary versus hourly status, and bases for pay progression all need to be reviewed once the shift is made from the traditional mass production system to the Advanced Manufacturing Technology .
A tactic used by some organisations is that standard job classifications have been replaced with pay for knowledge systems, which adjust worker's wages according to their mastery of 'work modules', or clusters of tasks. Workers decide, with advice, what modules they will learn, and they develop plans for getting the training and experience they will need
Selection and Training
Management has to revise and upgrade the way it selects and trains workers for Advanced Manufacturing Technology. In general the ability to learn is more important than experience. Innovative selection procedures have been devised at plants employing the Advanced Manufacturing Technology around the world. Only those workers are to be selected who show a certain level of commitment to the philosophy of Advanced Manufacturing Technology. This can be tested by various scientifically devised recruitment means.
Training technologies for the new technology workplaces include much larger lead times, joint sessions for workers and managers, programs designed to develop basic and specific knowledge, and a commitment to continuous training.
To say that employee involvement is necessary for the success of new technology at the shop floor is an understatement. HR managers have to build up commitment and loyalty among the workforce by keeping them up to date about plans for Advanced Manufacturing Technology, laying out the implications for job security and working conditions, and asking them to join in the project.
Union Management Cooperation
It has been well documented that due to Advanced Manufacturing Technology, both the unions as well as employers benefited. The company gains because it got better trained workers who could exercise good judgement in operating and maintaining expensive equipment. The Unions gain because its members get more secure equipment, more interesting and challenging jobs, and higher pay. Successful implementation of Advanced Manufacturing Technology calls for strong labor-management relationship. Indicators of such relationships are management's willingness to notify the union about new technology as early as possible and readiness to involve the union in implementing it as soon as possible.
Aligning ATM and HRM