Extended Work Cycle Assembly – A crucial learning and training experience, expansion and revision and of an earlier published article
Preprint, 2017

This article (or preprint not yet completed due to the retirement of one of the authors) is an expansion and revision of an earlier published article in International Journal of Human Factors in Manufacturing published in 1994, which reported on a crucial learning and training experience. Thereby were we able to validate one of the design principles (or concepts), which were applied in the defunct Volvo Automobile Corporation's assembly plant in Uddevalla. An experience carried out in the author's experimental workshop in Gothenburg that predated the final choice of assembly system design practised for full-scale production purposes. As was conducted in parallel with the (at this period) just initiated temporary learning and training workshop located in Uddevalla (started in 1987 and relocated in 1988).

These design principles include the concept of holistic learning, specifically through the creation and transformation of a number complementary, interrelated physical, semantical and cognitive structures. As have been our understanding, or interpretation, of this concept using among other things disassembly of physical automobiles and using a specifically designed illustration system to depict the removed components. A so-called assembly-oriented product structure was developed and used locally in this particular assembly plant, which in the assembly plant allowed small parallel workgroups of seven or nine operators to learn and train the extensively long work cycle times. These workgroups were supported by an advanced material feeding technique using materials kits. This material feeding technique was thereby facilitating each operator's work in ways that were unique (serving as one out of several other aids for the extensive work content). We have before (in the original publication just mentioned) discussed the learning and training environment and aids, as well as the principle, was applied for assembly of one-quarter of an automobile performed by one single person (corresponding to more than two hours work cycle time in a fully runned-in assembly plant).

In short, the activities, which prospected these aids were (1) familiarisation, (2) initial assembly work, (3) recapitulation of the initial assembly work, (4) recapitulating through disassembly and arranging the components. But also after that, (5) integration of previous assemblages, (6) organising the workplace, and (7) final mental recapitulation of the assembly process. And after that (8) final test assembly. In short, a fifteen years old trainee was more or less "forced to", during (only) two weeks stay within the experimental workshop, use some interrelated aids (to realise the various structures mentioned). He was unfamiliar with shop floor work within the automotive industry, albeit he was by no means impractical, and he was mechanical inclined already from the beginning).

Through this learning and training experience (as have been reported before), it proved possible to dramatically reduce the learning and training times required for long cycle time assembly work. In comparison to e.g. what was going on within the temporary learning and training workshop, was the trainee during the final test assembly on the very last day of his stay in the experimental workshop gaining a performance of 1 200% above the work-pace within the temporary workshop in Uddevalla. A figure that was 150% of the estimated net-assembly time in the fully runned-in assembly plant, i.e. the time required for assembly excluding material handling and walking on a workstation. However, the resulting work cycle times within the final assembly plant were even far more extensive (e.g. approximate 25 operators were able to assemble complete automobiles single-handily).

Note, this learning and training experience was pre-dating the final decision of choice of assembly system design, and it contributed this choice since it proved that work cycle times of two hours or more was a practical proposition for full-scale production purposes.

Apart from some required rewritings of the original text mentioned above, the complementary revisions concern e.g. (1) decorating the article using photos of this particular learning and training experience (these were not included in the original article). Moreover, (2) some extra insights and experiences, successively gained after that, are also brought forward (the learning and training experience was executed in 1988, and this assembly plant in question operated 1989–1992). Please remember that this learning and training experience was, as said before, carried out some years before the assembly plant in question finally proved the flexibility and performance later reported in e.g. the author's other publication Nevertheless, the official such figures call for some extra comments. This assembly plant was closed down twenty-five years ago, which certainly also have given us extra time to reflect on the matters brought forward under this quite extensive time that has passed so far.

cognitive aspects of work

assembly work


alternatives to line assembly


work organisation

manufacturing technology

work structuring

long work cycle times

restructuring of information systems

engineering of psychosocial preconditions

materials feeding techniques

learning and training


Tomas Engström

Chalmers, Teknikens ekonomi och organisation, Supply and Operations Management

Dan Jonsson

Göteborgs universitet


Annan teknik

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