Technology vs. workers: the case of Italy's Industry 4.0 factories

Jacopo Staccioli, Maria Enrica Virgillito, Valeria Cirillo, Matteo Rinaldini

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

3 Citations (Scopus)


This article explores the relationship between the introduction of Industry 4.0 automation systems, the organisation of the work process, and the implications for employment, skill composition, power relations, and workers’ intervention authority. We investigate the undergoing technological and organisational transformation in three high-tech automotive factories in Italy and we find that the push towards sheer automation does not constitute the most relevant process under way. Rather, more effort is devoted to digitalisation and interconnection. Technological change appears to be strategically used by firms to achieve a lean system and a tense, demand-led, production flow. In terms of human-machine relationship and workers’ authority to intervene on the production process, our case studies show that Industry 4.0 reduces room for employees’ autonomy and increases forms of management control.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)166-183
Number of pages18
JournalStructural Change and Economic Dynamics
Publication statusPublished - 2021


  • Autonomy
  • Discretion
  • Industry 4.0
  • Lean systems
  • Organisational change
  • Technological paradigms


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