Publication Details

Dawson, P. (2005). Changing manufacturing practices: an appraisal of the processual approach. Human Factors and Ergonomics in Manufacturing, 15 (4), 385-402. Copyright 2005 John Wiley & Sons.


There has been a longstanding interest in human factors and the processes of change in manufacturing organizations. This paper focuses attention on the establishment and contribution of a processual perspective to understanding change. A history of the processual approach is outlined and some of the main defining elements and ongoing developments are appraised. Field data drawn from a study of cellular work arrangements at a mirror manufacturing plant is used to highlight the interlocking and overlapping dynamics between substance, context, and politics. In advocating the benefits of a processual perspective, it is argued that during the uptake of cellular manufacturing there is a mutual shaping between the ‘technical’ and the ‘social’ and in support of this claim, case study data are used to illustrate the complex and ongoing interaction between socio-political processes and the substance of change (in this case, the technical reconfiguration into cellular form). It is argued that attempts to distil, separate, identify and examine discrete elements (such as, technology) are misplaced and likely to produce misleading results that undervalue the importance of the contextual and socio-political processes that also play a key part as mutual shapers of change.



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