Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Department of Science and Technology Studies


The key research question of this study is to determine if Brazihan firms are applying the human-centred manufacturing approaches and if so, to explore how and to what extent this is happening. From this, two related research topics emerge: (i) how macro contextual conditions support or constrain the implementation of the HC model; and (ii) which are the main technical and organisational features of a 'tropicalized' (adapted) HC model in Brazilian firms. In order to address these questions, case studies were carried out in 10 Brazilian firms. The aim of the empirical study was to determine the form and level of human-centredness in these firms and to explore the factors affecting this. An examination was then made of the patterns of human-centred development and its links with product, process and environmental factors, identified in the literature as key influences on HC systems developments. Two theoretical approaches were used to inform the empirical component of this study in order to explain the application of New Production Systems and, specifically the Human-centred approach in the semi-periphery. Firstly, the examination at the level of the firm, integrates constructivist views of people, technology and organisation with the concept of manufacturing engineering systems as well as the organisation configuration approach. This helps to understand "how" the human-centred approach was applied in Brazil. Secondly, a political economy examination of the macro contextual factors assisted to understand "why" related questions. Key findings of this study refer to the wide range of adaptation to local conditions of new production systems. This is explained by contextual institutional factors, such as industrial relations and regional labour markets. In contrast to established human-centred theory, the degree of human-centredness in the organisational arena was not strongly linked to either (i) human-centred designed technology; (ii) to new product market variety and change; or (iii)characteristics of the firm.

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