Integrating Smart Manufacturing to Lean: A Multiple-Case Study of the Impact on Shop-Floor Employees’ Autonomy and Empowerment

Thomas Bortolotti, Stefania Boscari, Etta Morton, Daryl Powell

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterAcademicpeer-review


This study investigates the effects of Smart manufacturing implementation on shop-floor employees’ autonomy and empowerment in Lean companies, an area that has largely remained unexplored in the existing literature. A theoretical framework based on the Job Characteristics Model is used to assess the impact of ‘soft’ Lean practices, such as teamwork and group problem-solving, on employees’ job perceptions. The framework is then used to assess the effects of Smart manufacturing adoption, in terms of changes in shop floor employees’ perceptions. To this aim, a multiple case-study methodology is employed, collecting data from four large manufacturing companies with established Lean systems and varying degrees of Smart manufacturing adoption, as well as a consultant company specializing in their integration. This study’s findings show that Smart manufacturing supports job rotation in the shop-floor. In relation to employees’ autonomy, it supports faster and more informed decisions, as well as (Lean) practices related to employee controls, with no significant alteration of problem-solving. The speed of process feedback has increased with the use of Smart Manufacturing technologies, while other forms of feedback appear to be unaffected at this time, such as in-person coaching and person-to-person feedback. Overall, these findings support that many of the “soft” Lean practices are maintained when adopting Smart manufacturing, which the latter being adapted to support the existing Lean systems. By showcasing the effects of Smart manufacturing on shop-floor employees’ work, our insights provide valuable information for practitioners who are considering implementing Smart manufacturing in their organizations.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationAdvances in Production Management Systems. Production Management Systems for Responsible Manufacturing, Service, and Logistics Futures
Subtitle of host publicationIFIP WG 5.7 International Conference, APMS 2023, Trondheim, Norway, September 17–21, 2023, Proceedings, Part I
EditorsErlend Alfnes, Anita Romsdal, Jan Ola Strandhagen, Gregor von Cieminski, David Romero
PublisherSpringer Science and Business Media Deutschland GmbH
Number of pages16
ISBN (Print)978-303143661-1
Publication statusPublished - 14-Sept-2023

Publication series

NameIFIP Advances in Information and Communication Technology
ISSN (Print)1868-4238
ISSN (Electronic)1868-422X

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