Social Productivity of Manufacturing Teams 1/2 - Social Background -

Dec. 18, 2019 [No.71-2019]

Masahiro Nowatari
Professor emeritus at Tamagawa University, Industrial Sociologist,
PhD (psychology), PhD (engineering) 

Social Productivity of Manufacturing Teams 1/2
- Social Background -

Teamwork is a keyword that everyone has accepted since ancient times. We have already proven that workers' productivity at manufacturing production sites is influenced by whether their teamwork is good or bad. In Japan, a developed country in terms of manufacturing, we have accepted the importance of teamwork, but have missed a lot of opportunities because teamwork has not been included among the matters targeted by production management. Japan shifted from a manufacturing-based to a service-based economy in the late 20th century. However, teamwork is required in all industries.

Southeast Asia, which is under pressure to undergo industrial development through manufacturing, should not repeat Japan's past, in which teamwork was not targeted for management. Countries in Southeast Asia need to focus on teamwork as they develop their manufacturing, starting right from the beginning of industrial and social development. Placing importance on production sites is the key issue, because in each nation, the manufacturing sector will account for an ever larger percentage of the GDP.

"Social productivity" is a productivity improvement activity that prominently features social science that is based both on social capability in the form of teamwork in manufacturing production site teams, and on production capability aimed at achieving conventional productivity. Evaluation based both on teamwork—which is a yardstick for evaluating social systems—and team productivity—which is a yardstick for evaluating production systems—will improve the social capability of work-team members, raise corporate and national power, and contribute to human welfare through the SDGs.

The SDGs advocate the necessity of establishing a human-centered society that is compatible both with sustainable economic development and with solving social issues. This is based on the concepts of CSR and ESG, and requires ethics that are based on a higher level of social values. On the other hand, CSV demands the practice of management strategy based on common values (economic values and social values), and business management that places greater weight on social values. Furthermore, with the launch of the ISO 56000 Series / IMS (Innovation Management System) in 2019, it is now necessary to construct management systems for innovation in organizational activities.

I have been conducting empirical research on "teamwork and team productivity at manufacturing production sites" both in Japan and overseas since the 1980s. In recent years, I have been studying the relationship between "social productivity," SDGs, and IMS, and expanding awareness of them. I am examining teamwork among workers at production sites around the world from the viewpoint of sociology and social psychology, and of manufacturing technology, management technology, and IE. Conventional human resource management focuses on management of people's individual abilities, and little empirical work is done with regard to the group vitality that teams possess. Consequently, this has become a big blind spot for production management activities.

"Social productivity" aims to improve the productivity of work teams through the creation of group values, on the basis of a socio-technological system aimed at improving the quality of work life. There are calls to add to the areas of the natural sciences that address productivity knowledge from the humanities and social sciences based on concepts such as social common capital, social capital, social psychology and etc. Work teams have their own social system in the form of teamwork through ideas such as members' mutually complementing each other, and through manufacturing as a group of individuals, the members themselves can also grow. This needs to be integrated as a matter targeted by production management, as an SECI model (a spiral of mutual conversion from implicit knowledge to explicit knowledge).

New production management based on "social productivity" consists of both a social system and a production system. We need to recognize once more the social significance of work from the perspectives of both. We are aiming to improve productivity by improving the social capability of work teams, rather than by forcing greater labor intensity on workers.

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