Automation, skill requirements, and labor use strategies. High-wage and low-wage approaches to high-tech manufacturing in the automotive industry

Publication Type:

Conference Paper


Gerpisa colloquium, Puebla (2017)


In light of debates about advanced manufacturing and concepts like Industrie 4.0, this article compares skill requirements und labor-use strategies in highly automated automotive supplier plants in a high-wage country (Germany) and a low-wage region (Central Eastern Europe). It shows considerable differences in both skill requirements and labor-use strategies and examines what factors explain them. In particular, the analysis shows that the required skill levels and labor-use strategies depend less on process technologies per se, but rather on the role of the factory in the rollout and ramp-up of new products and new process technologies. Such a role requires close cooperation between employees in the manufacturing areas and in product development, which in turn requires particularly high skills. The article also explores the role of employee representatives in influencing labor-use strategies; however, the evidence is less clear in this regard. The article uses quantitative data from a survey of employee representatives, as well as qualitative data from in-depth company case studies.

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