The important role of the maintenance workforce in technological change: A much neglected aspect

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Existing studies of maintenance skills mainly follow one of two traditions: that within the framework of the labour process debate and that of the need for (new) maintenance skills for organizational and national competitiveness. This article intends to broaden the framework of analysis concerning maintenance skills which has so far been fragmented and narrowly focused. Drawing on findings from an indepth case study of five manufacturing firms through semi-structured interviews and a questionnaire survey, this article argues that maintenance workers have a more important role to play in technological change than is commonly assumed by their managers and by writers on maintenance work. Instead of being passive recipients of, or a source of resistance to, technological change, they can, and are willing to, facilitate and initiate technological change in their organizations. However, this enabling role is conditioned by organizational factors such as management style, product market, organization of maintenance work, human resource practices, and type of technological/equipment to be maintained. This article concludes that the valuable potential of maintenance employees is rarely appropriated by firms, many of which are enthusiastically seeking additional competitiveness.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)963-988
Number of pages26
JournalHuman Relations
Issue number8
Publication statusPublished - 26 Aug 2002
Externally publishedYes


  • Maintenance skill
  • Organizational competitiveness
  • Technological change

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