Rethinking the qualifications and skills in middle of the industry 4.0; the case of Audi Mexico in its pilot production.

Type de publication:

Conference Paper


Gerpisa colloquium, Detroit (2022)


Skill Formation


In the middle of strong technical level changes such as in industry 4.0 it is necessary to think about the skills and qualifications under a deep problematization scope. In this perspective skills and qualifications must be understand less as determinations of a structural type and more as pressures where workers have capacity, and decision choice in their skills and qualifications. The automotive industry is the sector with the most possibilities for applications of type 4.0. Also, the automotive industry has high levels human tasks that to this day cannot be completely replaced by robots.  For this propose the case of new plant in Mexico (Audi in state of Puebla) which started operations in 2016 was explored as an example. Most studies haven’t researched about changes in the skills or qualifications during these first steps of production.

When a new plant starts operations, the role of subjectivity can be more clearly. This is because most new plants have two stages of production; first stage is pilot production; and second stage is pre-series production. In the pilot   and pre-series stage the production is not destined for sales because the plant cannot produce in regular manner. The assembly lines aren’t ready, the workforce isn’t trained, and the level of automation is low (in automated areas traditionally such as body shop or paint shop). In this context there are more possibilities for construction of skills and qualifications in workforce because: first, for the uncertain environment and contingency in working process, where the production lines can’t performance of regular manner; and second, because there aren’t standard operating sheets yet, so the workers have less constraints about their actions on the production floor.

The mainly findings are related with different capacities from workers that they can put to performance when the plant don´t have a definitive way in the pilot production. Here the workers must build, with their subjectivities, new ways or solutions about a process or method, for example, when there aren’t guides o instructions to assemble the pre-serie cars or to set up assembly lines because the corporative didn’t have plan good to start up process. However, this situation can’t last long; the plant direction tries to reach to standardize all the process because it is condition to ramp up of production it means, series cars for sale.

At level theorical, the Grundrisse and The Capital of Marx were taken as conceptual building ground (previously it’s discussed with theorical perspectives of the old sociology of work, specially from France and Germany) and for methodology I rescued the configurationism approach by Enrique De La Garza which allowed to put the reality in three levels where the subjectivity can be understand with subjectivity fields (emotional field, aesthetic field etc.). This text is part of my PhD thesis called “The social construction of worker qualification in the starting and developing of new automotive plants: the case of Audi Mexico (2015-2020)” which’ll close this year. I developed semi-structured interviews (with engineers, workers, doctors, unionists of the plant) and a review of documents (collective bargaining agreement, Audi’s annual reports and papers of industrial engineering).



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