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Exploring labour flexibility in assembly plants: Configurations of labour flexibility at Scania production Zwolle

Snuverink, Thomas Bernard (2013) Exploring labour flexibility in assembly plants: Configurations of labour flexibility at Scania production Zwolle.

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Abstract:This research was initiated to explore the possibilities for Scania to handle pressing situations of employability. The first situation regards the fact that co-workers of 55 years old or older can refuse doing over-time, which causes difficulties in the occupation. The second situation is that Scania would like to increase their reputation as good employer, especially when the economy attracts. The rigidity and traditional characteristics of the contracts that are offered are not of this time. Finally, the organization is not designed to facilitate flexible facilities like part time employment, re-integration or taking (reservoirs of) leave on larger scale. In order to handle all three situations sustainably, the perspective of labour flexibility is considered to be appropriate. However, labour flexibility is often handled as a container concept for tackling a great variety of problems. The labour flexibility process model is developed in order to make this container concept more tangible. Subsequently, operationalization of the concept helps with understanding what is meant by labour flexibility and also which concrete interventions are appropriate in order to achieve desired results. The operationalization of labour flexibility led to a segmentation of five different types of flexibility, which form the fundament of the model: o Flexibility in time; the flexibility to modify the duration of work relative to non-work o Flexibility in contracts; every intervention that has an effect on the contractual agreement between employer and employee o Flexibility in skills; the ability to influence the competences of the employees are the point of departure for flexibility o Flexibility in location; the flexibility to influence where work occurs o Flexibility in workload; the insight and ability to influence the workload of individual employees Further operationalization and qualitative research methods supported the process of finding suitable interventions that have the potential to tackle the pressing situations. An internship along the production line and some internal interviews formed the orientation phase of this research. Five qualitative interviews with external organizations functioned as a source of inspiration to form a better image on what interventions are appropriate. Eventually, a kaizen (internal focus group) of a week is organized to intensively discuss every type of flexibility through the use of two models; the KATA model and the labour flexibility process model. The results of these methods are a comprehensive understanding of the concept of labour flexibility, understanding of the current and desired situation of labour flexibility for Scania and an extensive list of (un)appropriate interventions for Scania. These interventions are tested against their expected contribution to the three situations of the research origin as well as some critical decision criteria from the strategic platform of Scania. The recommendations consist of two configurations of interventions and two supporting interventions that will enhance the positive effect of the configurations: o Configuration 1; divide the current roster in blocks, stimulate and start hiring parttimers and implement a flexpool for production o Configuration 2; enhance job-rotation, implement a flex-tact, reallocate elder employees along the production line and initiate a customized sustainability plant o Supporting interventions; reassess the function structure and use more E-HRM The alternative roster will help with incubating the part-timers and also support the possibility for working four hours a day, work in a dayshift or wish/reject shifts to some extent. It also supports in coping with the increasing amount of types of leave and with reducing the reservoirs of overtime hours co-workers have saved. Then, it offers the opportunity to handle elder employees in a sustainable way without too many adjustments, increase Scania’s reputation as a good employer, decrease labour costs and simultaneously have more flexibility in occupation per block. The use of part-timers will enhance flexibility in planning and the possibility to achieve a net occupation. Scania will be able to attract other target groups of potential employees or support re-integration better. Working part-time significantly lowers the physical and psychological workload which has some additional effects like a better work/life balance and better performance at work. The biggest drawback is the increased complexity of planning which is partly reduced by implementing the suggested roster. A flexpool for production functions as a replacement for the social factor, has potential to realize a net occupation, enables co-workers to align their work and private life better and enables the organization to cope with the increasing amount of types of leave. The biggest drawbacks for the flexpool are the concern for quality and training costs. However, the feasibility analysis discussed some possible actions that could tackle these drawbacks. Configuration 1 will have an expected positive contribution towards employership, the 55+ case, handling leave, reliability, volume flexibility, quality and costs. Job rotation will stimulate the commitment of ambitious co-workers and provide opportunities to learn more from other departments in the long term. More job rotation will stimulate Scania to move towards the ultimatum where co-workers are not bound to a specific department but more organization wide. A flex-tact will help Scania to produce more efficiently and reduce costs. Scania should reallocate elder employees so that the burden while doing overtime is equal in every department. However, this is a short term solution. In order to cope with elder employees for a sustained period of time, Scania can introduce a customized sustainability plant. Even though the investment costs are considered to be high, Scania will cope with all problems concerning elder employees in a sustainable manner and meet every other request for sustainability. Configuration 2 will also enhance employership, the 55+ case, possibilities for handling leave, reliability, volume flexibility, improvement capacity and quality. However, the biggest contributions go to employership and the 55+ case. Considering the contribution towards all decision criteria and the expected effort that both configurations require in order to implement, configuration 1 is recommended. Note that it is highly recommended to implement the alternative roster and part-timers, whereas a flexpool is recommended in a subsequent stage.
Item Type:Essay (Master)
Faculty:BMS: Behavioural, Management and Social Sciences
Subject:85 business administration, organizational science
Programme:Business Administration MSc (60644)
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