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Changing Blue-Collar Work

July 1st, 2003 · No Comments

WSJ writes on how technology and globalisation are changing the nature of blue-collar work (taken to mean manufacturing):

Gone are traditional assembly jobs that required little skill and less education, those tasks being automated or sent overseas to less-industrialized countries. Remaining in the U.S., as well as in most industrialized countries, are blue-collar jobs involved in making products with proprietary technology, or items that require frequent tweaks and updates. These workers make goods that are perishable or too bulky to ship and thus must be close to the market: Bread and frozen foods; custom furniture, innovation-intensive computer components or refined hospital devices using technology a company wants to protect.

Today’s blue-collar workers are more involved in customized manufacturing, coming up with solutions to a particular customer’s needs, rather than churning out standardized parts and commodities.

Workers need to be able to think globally, too. An engineer at Timken Co., a century-old bearing maker, whose team once would have been limited to his Canton, Ohio, plant, now collaborates with colleagues at a Timken plant in Ploiesti, Romania, to design and make bearings for a client in China.

The world of blue-collar work has changed as well. What once took two weeks and a dozen workers now takes two people only a few hours. Jobs once considered a lifetime commitment are now more temporary, forcing workers to stay adaptable. Many of them move from one factory or plant to another, from day shift to nights to keep up with changing demands.

Tags: Management

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