In the apparel industry, module and bundle production are two distinct methods of work. The module system is a team-based strategy that relies on the involvement of multi-skilled workers. In contrast, the progressive bundle system is a traditional approach to production that is based on the accumulation of in-process inventories and in which work is highly fragmented and “deskilled”.
Our study differs from other studies of work organization because it uses a unique multi-level research design. Our conclusions are based on data and information obtained from several sources, including company records and interviews with corporate officials; plant, human resource, and training managers; and union officials (for the two unionized plants). In each plant, we also interviewed a random sample of approximately 100 employees, stratified by occupation. These half-hour interviews were conducted by telephone after work hours. The data presented in this chapter are from four U.S. plants of two companies in the basics segment of the apparel industry.
In the next section, we briefly review the literature on the effects of human resource innovations on performance. We then provide a brief overview of the apparel industry. After discussing our research design, we examine the extent of workplace transformation across our sample of plants. In the following section, we present a variety of performance data, and conclude with a discussion of the causes of differences in performance.
In the past ten years there has been a wide variety of research on the effects of human resource innovations on firm performance (Eaton and Voos, 1992; Levine and Tyson, 1990; MacDuffie, 1995).