Profit strategies, productive models and forms of automation


Freyssenet M., “Competitive Strategies, Industrial Models and Assembly Automation Templates”, in Comacchio A., Volpato G., Camuffo A. (eds), Automation in Automotive Industries. Recents Developements, Springer, Berlin, 1999, pp. 31-45. Édition numérique :, 2009, 197 Ko, ISSN 1776-0941. En anglais en première publication. Version française originale: Freyssenet M., Stratégies de profit, modèles industriels et formes d'automatisation de l'assemblage, Gerpisa, 1998, 14 p. Édition numérique,, 2015, 159 Ko, ISSN 1776-0941. Traducción en español: Freyssenet M., Estrategias de rentabilidad, modelos industriales y formas de automatización del armado, in Freyssenet M., Trabajo, Automatización y Modelos Productivos, Buenos Aires, México : Lumen Humanitas, 2002, 128 pages. Edición numérica,, 2015, 225 Ko, ISSN 1776-0941.

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The text presents the pioneer work of Takahiro Fujimoto about the various strategies and forms of automation in the automobile industry and points at the same time the limits of the proposed typology, based on two criteria.

This typology is an important contribution to the effort made to change the representation of the automation: from a homogeneous automation, evolving according to the scientific and technical discoveries and diffusing themselves more or less quickly according to the countries and the firms, to an automation varied in its objectives and its forms. By taking into account the differences in economic and social context, the typology makes it possible indeed to understand why automation is directed in certain cases towards the improvement of the work conditions and in others towards the increase in competitiveness. But it does not make it possible to understand why the additive approach is preferred with the systemic approach or vice versa in the same context. It does not make it possible either to understand the cases of choice of contradictory strategy of automation with the requirements of the context, nor the many secondary characteristics of the automated lines (long or short line, continuous movement or by jerk, automatic machines scattered or gathered, autonomous or integrated, specialized, multi-specialized or flexible, etc).

The text proposes to explore again the variety of the strategies and of the forms of automation, but now from the firms profit strategies and from their relevance in the context of each of them. First of all it appears that there are at least as many automations as profit strategies, so at least six. This number can increase if one considers the productive models which implement these strategies. The text does not make that, leaving this analysis to a future work. But the diversity of automation results especially from the incapacity of the majority of the firms to make coherent their policy-product, their productive organization and their employment relationship, between them and to the adopted profit strategy. The reasons are numerous: the conscience of the need for putting in coherence the technical choices with the social choices and the strategic choices is far from being shared; the construction of a firm government compromise between the main actors is a process difficult to make succeed; the debates about the means to implement the automation often recover in fact a confrontation on the relevance of the followed profit strategy; the ideology of the “best practices”, the imitation and the screening of the real profit sources which this ideology involves.


1. The diversity of strategies and of automation forms. Unresolved questions
2. The firms' profit strategies and the industrial models adopted to carry them out imply different forms of automation
3. It is difficult to find consistence between the profit strategy, the socio-productive organisation and the form of automation

Key words

Automatization, automobile, profit strategies, business history, theory of firms

Concerned disciplines

Anthropology, Economics, Ergonomics, Management, History, History of Sciences and Technologies, Engineering,, Sociology

Writing context

to personal questioning
to scientific reflection of research laboratory or network
to national and international scientific debate
to diffusion of scientific results
to implementation of scientific results

References, commentaries, critics

Current relevance

See also

✔ Freyssenet M., The automation process and its social forms: the sociological paradigm, Communication at the SASE Congress (Society for the Advancement of Socio-Economics) Paris, 15-16 Juillet 1994.

✔ Freyssenet M., “Reflective production: an alternative to mass-production and to lean production?”, Economic and Industrial Democracy, vol. 19, n°1, february 1998, pp 91-117.

✔ Freyssenet M., The Current Social Form of Automation and a Conceivable Alternative: French Experience, in Shimokawa K., Jurgens U., Fujimoto T., (eds), Transforming Automobile Assembly. Experience in Automation and Work Organization, Springer, Berlin, 1997, pp 305-317. Édition numérique,, 2006, 120 Ko.

✔ Boyer R., Freyssenet M., The productive models. The conditions of profitability, Londres, New York, Palgrave, 2002, 126 p.

Possible purchase websites

Date of text on lining


Dates of updatings

2015.09.22, 2015.10.02

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