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Ergonomics, Employee Involvement, and the Toyota Production System: A Case Study of NUMMI's 1993 Model Introduction

Paul S. Adler, Barbara Goldoftas and David I. Levine
ILR Review
Vol. 50, No. 3 (Apr., 1997), pp. 416-437
Published by: Sage Publications, Inc.
DOI: 10.2307/2525183
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/2525183
Page Count: 22
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Ergonomics, Employee Involvement, and the Toyota Production System: A Case Study of NUMMI's 1993 Model Introduction
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Abstract

New United Motors Manufacturing, Inc. (NUMMI) is a GM-Toyota joint venture that has been lauded by some for achieving performance based on high employee involvement, and criticized by others for intensifying work and harming workers. In 1993, OSHA cited NUMMI for paying insufficient attention to ergonomic issues during the introduction of a new car model. The authors analyze the origins of NUMMI's ergonomic problems and the responses of the company, union, and regulators. They also discuss a more ergonomically successful model introduction two years later. This case suggests that although employee involvement does not eliminate all divergence of interests between management and workers, it can change the terms of that divergence. When management reliance on employee involvement is complemented by strong employee voice and strong regulators, managers may find it in their interest to improve safety as a means of maintaining high employee commitment and thereby improving business performance.

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