Company configurations, production concepts and characteristics of labour (2)

Introduction
In part 1 of this contribution we described models for organising companies, economic activities, structuring organisations and production concepts. They all effect the needs for competence. But, these models are just a part of the reasoning to come to demands for employability. Utilizing a model for labelling labour, provides us with information about the character of work. The whole set of models supports the transformation of task bundles and a specific production concept to the needs of competence. In this second part I present this model of labour labelling and relate these with production concepts. The result is a model of competence concepts.

Characteristics of labour
The scale of productions concepts, mentioned before, shows variety in various aspects of a production organisation. E.g. numbers of ‘products’, involvement in one or more phases of production processes and the chosen balance between structuring of work, leadership and independence of workers. Each configuration of the work demands on specific competence. The question is how we can model this diversity. What we need is a possibility for transforming variations in production organisation into characteristics and after that into demands for competence. Damme et al (2005) distinct several characteristics in relation to production concepts.
Quantitative task requirements: “the amount of work to be done, the speed, time pressure etc”. Some workers must produce as much as possible, breaks are undesirable. Others on the other hand, don’t experience this pressure.
Autonomy: “the independency in planning work order, working method and working rhythm”. It’s about controlling the work: I think that more aspects are involved in controlling the optimal or even perfect performance. For these factors look at the model for micromanagement.
Possibilities for contacts: “the collegial contact and support opportunities in the job”. Workers ask for help, discuss performance of the work or solve problems. Others may not and must consult with their supervisor. It’s about knowledge production and learning on work places.
Cyclic character of the work: “the involvement in the phases of the work processes”. A company decides this involvement by choosing a configuration and a production concept and division of labour. Doing so, the decide about the involvement in phases as design, planning, production and control. The more phases the more a long cyclic character of the work and the more knowledge and insights are needed; workers need a higher level of competence.
Skill opportunities: ”the possibilities to develop expertise and to learn of innovative solutions”. Indicators for a need of skill opportunities are increasing complexity of the production, an enlarging cyclic character of the work, the unpredictable character of the work and an enduring uncertainty caused by economic, technological and organisational dynamics. Knowledge production is a more systemic approach of a learning company and creating skill opportunities.

Production concepts and characteristics of labour: competence concepts
Several times I stated relations between the organisation of labour and characteristics of the work and needs for competence. These needs vary with the production concepts. I present the name of the production concept and a brief description of the variations of the characteristics.

Old crafts shop.
The quantitative task demands vary with the orders on hand and with the complexity and numbers of the products. Autonomy vary with the ranks in a company. Masters-owners are fully autonomous; craftsmen are autonomous between the lines of the design by the master; apprentices aren’t even independent; they must follow the orders and instructions of the craftsmen. Possibilities for contacts are minimal and mostly within the company. Occasionally masters and craftsmen contact others about technical problems. The cyclic character of the work differs by the rank. A master can conduct all the phases of the production cycle, a craftsman mostly is involved in the planning, production and control. Apprentices must follow detailed instructions to develop the skills and drills of the trade, to practice these up to the level of automatic mechanisms; their work is short cyclic. Skills opportunities are restricted within the company.

Modern crafts shop
The quantitative task requirements vary with the orders on hand and with the complexity of the products. Also in this model, autonomy varies with the ranks. The owner/co-worker has full autonomy even as the fully qualified workers. Contacts for expertise are colleagues and suppliers of machines and materials. Sometimes the work is long cyclic, but in cases of great series the work is divided in small production steps and, by definition, short cyclic. Skills opportunities are incorporated in the production: its learning by earning producing new or renewed products.

Mass production
In the workshops for mass production are the quantitative task requirements very high. There’s no autonomy because the work is fully structured. By implication the possibilities for contacts are hardly necessary and the work is short cyclic. Even skills opportunities aren’t necessary, new skills will be trained as part of the transition to a new production.

Mass customization production
The quantitative task requirements are as high as for the mass production. There’s no autonomy because the work is fully structured. By implication the possibilities for contacts are hardly necessary and the work is short cyclic. Even skills opportunities aren’t necessary, new skills will be trained as part of the transition to a new production. But the difference is that the repertoire of skills is broader than for mass production due to the variety of parts of the production.

Small series or flexible production
The quantitative task requirements are high because the machines (robots) are very expensive. In brief time machines must be altered to new products. Workers keep control of the production and are responsible for the logistics of materials and finished products. The work includes more phases as at mass production but is nog long cyclic. There is some autonomy because workers are responsible for the adjustments to new products. Skills opportunities are of paramount importance due to the variety of products, updates of machines and the setting, operating and servicing machines.

Services
The quantitative task requirements are high, but the work is not completely to plan because of the variation in products and services and unpredictable conditions. So, it’s clear that workers have some autonomy, but within the boundaries of the ‘technical’ problems and within the boundaries of the protocols for their work. Possibilities for contacts are important due to the uncertainties of the work, but become of less importance by the learning software consulting the workers. The work the work includes multiple phases by the variations in products and services and the uncertainties of the work. So, the work is long cyclic. Skills opportunities are also of paramount importance due to the ongoing technological development and the expanding range of products and services.

Professional production
Even in a professional production concept the quantitative task requirements are high because hours must be declared. The difference with the former production concept is that this is a part of the responsibilities of a professional. Their autonomy is high, except in the fields of professional care and health. There structuring of the work by protocols is necessary to be effective, efficient and to reduce the costs. Possibilities for contacts are very important and the work is divers and unpredictable. InterVision is necessary to develop expertise. The work is long cyclic; professionals are responsible for all the phases of the work processes. Skills opportunities such as (compulsory) schooling and training to keep in pace with new insights and methods and to stay competent are important.

Learning and development
Even in this production concept the quantitative task requirements are high because hours must be declared. The autonomy of the experts/professionals is very high. Notice that a good interaction with the client is an absolute condition for the joint learning process. Possibilities for contacts is extreme important; the learning process of the expert and the client speeds up by the utilization of similar learning experiences and insights. The labour is long cyclic: the entire process is under control by the professional. Skills opportunities are essential for a superior performance in the mutual learning and development.

I have my doubts about the validity of the quantitative requirements. I think this is not distinctive enough, all the companies (profit and not-for-profit) and workers must perform well. An operationalization that is in line with the characteristics of the production concept is necessary. I suspect this characteristic intervenes with the cyclical nature of the work: the more phases the slower the work looks, there’s less repetition but is often mentally much more intensive.

Epilogue
The model of characteristics of labour support the indication of demand for competence and employability. They also indicate of variations per production concept.

Gepubliceerd door

Eduard Moen

Gepensioneerd onderwijskundige, gespecialiseerd in beroepsonderwijs. Retired educationist, specialized in VET.

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