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Mastering Disruptive Change in Manufacturing: Labor Relations

Despite increasing automation, human labor remains one of the most important resources in any manufacturing operation

By ·

Despite increasing automation, human labor remains one of the most important resources in any manufacturing operation. The hype around 3D printing and robotics may be taking up most of the airtime in manufacturing-related discussions, but there are plenty of reasons why management should start paying more attention to interactions with workers.

One reason is that since the financial crisis, unions and workers’ representatives are back in the game. The years-long trend of declining unionization rates (especially in industrialized countries) has recently slowed, with some unions even increasing membership rates and gaining more political influence as a result. In Europe, the effects of union-driven activity on German transportation systems in the past two years have been tremendous, with the cost of some strikes estimated at more than $40 million.

However, it is no longer enough to look only at developed countries. As globalization continues to play out and companies from all over the world set up operations abroad, often in low-wage countries, skilled labor has become scarce, management has become more international (and is often unfamiliar with local rules and customs), and workers’ rights are moving to the fore as labor laws are updated.

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By ·
Download Article PDF

Despite increasing automation, human labor remains one of the most important resources in any manufacturing operation. The hype around 3D printing and robotics may be taking up most of the airtime in manufacturing-related discussions, but there are plenty of reasons why management should start paying more attention to interactions with workers.

One reason is that since the financial crisis, unions and workers’ representatives are back in the game. The years-long trend of declining unionization rates (especially in industrialized countries) has recently slowed, with some unions even increasing membership rates and gaining more political influence as a result. In Europe, the effects of union-driven activity on German transportation systems in the past two years have been tremendous, with the cost of some strikes estimated at more than $40 million.

However, it is no longer enough to look only at developed countries. As globalization continues to play out and companies from all over the world set up operations abroad, often in low-wage countries, skilled labor has become scarce, management has become more international (and is often unfamiliar with local rules and customs), and workers’ rights are moving to the fore as labor laws are updated.

SUBSCRIBERS: Click here to download PDF of the full article.

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