Advertisement

New Topologies of Work: Informatisation, Virtualisation and Globalisation in Automotive Engineering

Chapter
Part of the Dynamics of Virtual Work book series (DVW)

Abstract

In current debates about the future of work and organisations, digitisation and virtualisation move to centre stage. The terms ‘Digital Revolution’ (Rifkin 2011) or ‘Second Machine Age’ (Brynjolfsson and McAfee 2014) equates the ongoing changes with those of the industrial revolution. In ‘Digital Capitalism’ (Schiller 2000) or ‘Cognitive Capitalism’ (Moulier-Boutang 2012), the internet of things, Weiser’s (1991) foresighted vision, is becoming true much sooner than expected. Regarding a future of ‘virtual realities’, or ‘real virtualities’ as Castells (1996) emphasises, place does not seem to be of any interest. The spread of the internet nourished the idea that time and place (of work) would no longer matter. New topologies of work emerge, which demand a rethinking of notions of space and place. This paper reflects on empirical evidence of automotive engineering to draw a picture of these new topologies of work. Engineering work is facing crucial changes as a new phase of informatisation has been entered through the development of digitisation and virtualisation techniques and the use of information and communication technologies (ICT). Collaborative engineering methods are being increasingly applied and global engineering seems to be a reachable goal. Engineering seems to be becoming spatially flexible: any time—any place. The empirical findings to be presented are based on two empirical research projects in automotive engineering. Four case studies have been conducted using document analysis and more than 40 guided qualitative interviews with experts in engineering management and engineers at the operational level in engineering centres or units. In summary, we found heterogeneous strategies to deal with the challenges of global competition and the financial crisis. The case companies try to enhance their global strategies, intensify the international division of labour in engineering and focus more on processes than on products. The aims of the companies could be characterised as locally-bounded and globally distributed at the same time, where globally distributed means within the same company and focused on nearshore locations. Consistent changes in automotive engineering has ongoing implications for the product development process and engineering work in the context of informatisation, digitisation and virtualisation. On the one hand, we find changes in work organisation, work content and the status of engineers, whilst, on the other hand, we find tendencies of relocating work through information spaces. Before presenting the empirical findings some thoughts on the differentiation of space and place will be put forward to demonstrate why we need a clear understanding of both and how these terms were used. The differences between and meanings of the terms: informatisation, digitalisation and virtualisation will also be clarified. These terms can be regarded as the central references of this paper and crucial to understanding the current changes in work and organisations.

Keywords

Information Space Automotive Engineering Virtual Prototype Engineering Work Product Development Process 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.

References

  1. Anderl, R. (2006). Produktentwicklung in der Automobilindustrie. In A. Baukrowitz, T. Berker, A. Boes, S. Pfeiffer, R. Schmiede, & M. Will (Eds.), Informatisierung der Arbeit—Gesellschaft im Umbruch (pp. 37–52). Berlin: Edition Sigma.Google Scholar
  2. Aspray, W., Mayadas, F., & Vardi, M. (Eds.) (2006). Globalization and offshoring of software. In Research Report of the Association for Computing Machinery (ACM). http://www.meti.go.jp/committee/materials/downloadfiles/g61226a06j.pdf.Accessed8April2016.
  3. Bailey, D. E., Leonardi, P. M., & Barley, S. R. (2012). The lure of the virtual. Organization Science, 23(5), 1485–1504.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Boes, A., & Kämpf, T. (2010). Offshoring and the new insecurities: Towards new types of ‘White Collar Consciousness’ in Germany in globalised working environments. Work Organisation, Labour and Globalisation, 4(1), 104–119.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Boes, A., & Kämpf, T. (2007). The nexus of informatisation and internationalisation—A new stage in the internationalisation of labour in globalised working environments. Work Organisation, Labour and Globalisation, 1(2), 193–208.Google Scholar
  6. Böhle, F. and Milkau, B. (1988) Vom Handrad zum Bildschirm. Frankfurt a. M., NY: Campus.Google Scholar
  7. Brynjolfsson, E., & McAfee, A. (2014). The second machine age: Work, progress, prosperity in a time of brilliant technologies. New York: W.W. Norton & Company.Google Scholar
  8. Castells, M. (1996). The rise of the network society: The information age—Economy, society and culture I. Cambridge, MA: Blackwell.Google Scholar
  9. Eigner, M., & Stelzer, R. (2009). Product lifecycle management. Ein Leitfaden für product development und life cycle management. Berlin: Springer.Google Scholar
  10. Flecker, J., & Meil, P. (2010). Organisational restructuring and emerging service value chains—Implications for work and employment. Work, Employment and Society, 24(4), 1–19.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Flecker, J. and Huws, U. (2004). Asian Emergence: The Worlds Back Office?, IES Report 409. Brighton: Institute for Employment Studies.Google Scholar
  12. Friedman, T. L. (2005). The World Is Flat: A Brief History of the Twenty-first Century. New York: Holtzbrinck Publishers.Google Scholar
  13. Giddens, A. (1984). The constitution of society: Outline of the theory of structuration. Cambridge: Polity Press.Google Scholar
  14. Gleeson-White, J. (2013). How the Merchants of Venice shaped the modern world—And how their invention could make or break the planet. London: Blue Guides.Google Scholar
  15. Hardy, J., & Hollinshead, G. (2011). The embeddedness of software development in Ukraine: An offshoring country perspective. European Planning Studies, 19(9), 1633–1650.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Harper, D. (1987). Working knowledge. Skill and community in a small shop. Chicago: University Press.Google Scholar
  17. Harvey, D. (1989). The condition of postmodernity: An enquiry into the origins of cultural change. Oxford: Blackwell.Google Scholar
  18. Jessop, B. (2006). Spatial fixes, temporal fixes and spatio-temporal fixes. In N. Castree & D. Gregory (Eds.), David harvey: A critical reader (pp. 142–166). Oxford: Blackwell.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Jürgens, U. and Meißner, H.-R. (2005) Arbeiten am Auto der Zukunft. Produktinnovationen und Perspektiven der Beschäftigten [Working on the car of the future. Product innovations and perspectives for the employees]. Berlin: Edition Sigma.Google Scholar
  20. Lefebvre, H. (1991). The production of space. New York: Wiley.Google Scholar
  21. Löw, M. (2013). The emergence of space through the interplay of action and structures, in D.A. A Handbook of design anthropology. Peter Lang (pp. 714–727).Google Scholar
  22. Mayer-Ahuja, N. (2014). Everywhere is becoming the same? Regulating IT-work between India and Germany, New Delhi. Hyderabad: Social Science Press.Google Scholar
  23. Mayring, P. (2002). Qualitative content analysis: Research instrument or mode of interpretation? In M. Kiegelmann (Ed.), The role of the researcher in qualitative psychology (pp. 139–148). Tübingen: Verlag Ingeborg Huber.Google Scholar
  24. Moulier-Boutang, Y. (2012). Cognitive capitalism. Cambridge: Polity Press.Google Scholar
  25. Pfeiffer, S. (2004) Arbeitsvermögen. Wiesbaden: Springer VS.Google Scholar
  26. Polanyi, M. (1967). The tacit dimension. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press.Google Scholar
  27. Pongratz, H. J., & Trinczek, R. (Eds.) (2010). Industriesoziologische Fallstudien. Entwicklungspotenziale einer Forschungsstrategie. Berlin: Edition Sigma.Google Scholar
  28. Rifkin, J. (2011). The third industrial revolution. How lateral power is transforming energy, the economy, and the world. Basingstoke: Palgrave MacMillan.Google Scholar
  29. Schamp, E. W., Rentmeister, B., & Lo, V. (2004). Dimensions of proximity in knowledge-based networks: The cases of investment banking and automobile design. European Planning Studies, 5(12), 607–624.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Schiller, D. (2000). Digital capitalism. Networking the global market system. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.Google Scholar
  31. Schmiede, R., & Will-Zocholl, M. (2011). Engineers work on the move. Challenges in automotive engineering in a globalized world. Engineering Studies, 3(2), 1–21.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Schmiede, R. (2006). Knowledge, work and subject in informational capitalism. In J. Berleur, I. Markku, I. Nurminen, & J. Impagliazzo (Eds.), Social informatics—An information society for all? (pp. 333–354). Wiesbaden/Heidelberg: Springer Science and Business Media.Google Scholar
  33. Schmiede, R. (1996). Informatisierung, Formalisierung und kapitalistische Produkti-onsweise. Entstehung der Informationstechnik und Wandel der gesellschaftlichen Arbeit‘ in R. Schmiede (ed.) Virtuelle Arbeitswelten. Arbeit, Produktion und Subjekt in der “Informationsgesellschaft” Berlin: Edition Sigma), 15–47.Google Scholar
  34. Verband der deutschen Automobilindustrie (2014) Zahlen und Daten 2014. https://www.vda.de/de/services/zahlen-und-daten/zahlen-und-daten-uebersicht.html. Accessed 12 September 2015.
  35. Verband der deutschen Automobilindustrie (2004) Future Automotive Industry Structure (FAST) 2015 Studydie neue Arbeitsteilung in der Automobilindustrie, Materialien zur Automobilindustrie 32 [The new division of labor in automobile engineering]. Frankfurt a. M., NY: IGM.Google Scholar
  36. Völz, D. (2011) Semantische Annotationen zur rechnergestützten kooperativen Produktentwicklung. Aachen: Shaker.Google Scholar
  37. Weiser, M. (1991) The computer for the 21st century. https://www.ics.uci.edu/~corps/phaseii/Weiser-Computer21stCentury-SciAm.pdf. Accessed 12 September 2015.
  38. Will-Zocholl, M. (2016) Die Verlockung des Virtuellen. Reorganisation von Arbeit unter Bedingungen der Informatisierung, Digitalisierung und Virtualisierung. AIS-Studien 9(1), 25–42.Google Scholar
  39. Will-Zocholl, M. (2011) Wissensarbeit in der Automobilindustrie. Topologien der Reorganisation von Ingenieursarbeit in der globalen Produktentwicklung. Berlin: Edition Sigma.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© The Editor(s) (if applicable) and The Author(s) 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Institute of SociologyGoethe-UniveristyFrankfurt am MainGermany

Personalised recommendations