Coping with world class manufacturing

Storey, John and Harrison, Alan (1999). Coping with world class manufacturing. Work, Employment and Society, 13(4) pp. 643–664.




This article reports on a study of shopfloor ‘coping’ behaviour in an engineering company which had launched a major ‘World Class Manufacturing’ (WCM) initiative. The article unpacks the meaning of WCM and shows how its impact varied markedly between different manufacturing cells. More centrally, it reveals a significant gap between managerial understanding and attitudes to the new manufacturing and the response found among a significant proportion of employees. In particular, through a close analysis of employee accounts and concerns, it is shown that shopfloor employees, far from viewing initiatives such as WCM as panaceas, regard them as disruptions to routines which have somehow to be accommodated. Moreover, the analysis reveals how employee coping behaviour simultaneously allows them to achieve that accommodation and enables the shortcomings in the planned initiatives to be at least partly rectified. Coping behaviour therefore both subverts the WCM programme and allows it to function.

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