The authors discuss the changing character of production strategies and organizational arrangements at three leading Japanese automotive assemblers against a background of concern with the impact of work regimes upon employees. Innovations in production line organization are compared within and between the companies, and the argument advanced suggests that the attempt to 'humanize' work routines and procedures, by the leading company especially, has met with mixed results. Sometimes more 'efficient' technologies and forms of organization have been inhibited in the pursuit of 'human-centred' forms of work organization. Nevertheless, the article points up the considerable Variations which exist both between and within Japanese companies and trade unions with respect to the understanding of the role played by labour.
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