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Digitalization in Nordic manufacturing: Some case-study illustrations - Nordic future of work project 2017–2020: Working paper 3

Working paper
Authors Bertil Rolandsson
Jon Erik Dølvik
Anna Hedenus
Johan Röed Steen
Anna Ilsöe
Trine Pernille Larsen
Tuomo Alasoini
Publisher Fafo
Place of publication Oslo
Publication year 2019
Published at Department of Sociology and Work Science
Language en
Keywords Key Words: Manufacturing, Digitalization, Industry 4.0, Nordic model, Upgrading, Skills
Subject categories Economics and Business, Sociology, Technology and social change, Work Sciences


Studies, grouped under the heading of Industry 4.0, have predicted that the introduction of advanced robots, networked machines, additive manufacturing, machine learning, internet of things (IIot) etc. will not only propel labour-saving automation, but also alter tasks, content, skill demands and conditions of work. In this brief Working Paper we offer a look into how a set of large-scale Nordic manufacturing companies makes use of digital production technology, and what kind of challenges such technological change implies for the organization of work. Drawing on 49 semi-structured interviews at 7 Nordic manufacturing sites, we describe the aims driving the companies’ introduction of new technology and explore how the Nordic managers and unions seek to tackle the impact of digitalization on work, skill requirements, and employment relations at company level. The interviewees all come from comparable sites in advanced machinery industry com-panies in Denmark, Finland, Norway and Sweden. Accounting for sizeable shares of national production and export in their domains, the selected companies have been using digital equipment and ICT-based production processes for quite a while. As companies with a long history, several of them have also experienced earlier rounds of industrial and technological transformation. According to the interviewees, the development of new digitalized production lines is associated with team-work and other new modes of organizing work, which requires continuous reskilling and up-grading of work at the same time as the boundaries between blue- and white collar labour become more blurred. To succeed in such reorganizations and reaping the benefits of digitalization, the interviewees on both sides emphasised the critical importance of bottom-up involvement from the shop-floor and active support from partnerships between management and unions. Hence, rather than as a barrier, the local pillars of the Nordic model were viewed as a prerequisite for successful digitalization, and for safeguarding jobs in ever more competitive global markets. Even in instances where company level partnerships showed signs of strain, none of the respondents depicted the transition into Industry 4.0 as a challenge to the Nordic tradition of collaborative industrial relations.

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