practices are found in some plants of the large American firms (General Motors, Ford, and Chrysler); however, the majority of these older facilities are characterized by a mix of traditional and team-based systems (MacDuffie and Pil, 1997).
The Apparel Industry The apparel industry epitomizes labor-intensive, low-wage production work. Traditional work organization arrangements in apparel are described as the "bundle system," in which work is divided into narrow individual jobs governed by piece rate compensation systems. Studies of this industry show that this is still the dominant arrangement (Dunlop and Weil, 1996; Appelbaum and Berg, 1999); however, in apparel plants that supply retailers requiring rapid replenishment of stocks (with the aid of shared information systems), the bundle system has been replaced with a team-based modular production system. Modular systems serve to reduce total costs in large part by reducing work-in-process inventories and allowing more flexible, quicker responses to fluctuation in retail sales and other demands. The best estimates are, however, that less than 15 percent of apparel industry work in the United States has shifted to modular systems (Dunlop and Weil, 1996). The rate of change in this industry is therefore dependent on the rate at which retailers require manufacturers to support rapid replenishment strategies.
The predominant trends in blue-collar work are toward team-based work systems and toward work that increases the degree of control and task scope and that requires higher cognitive and interactive skills and activities. When advanced technologies are integrated with these changes in work content, team-based work systems achieve higher levels of productivity and quality. Not all blue-collar work is, however, changing in this way: the best estimates are that perhaps one-third of the blue-collar workforce is experiencing these types of changes. Blue-collar work may thus be increasing in diversity at the same time that it is leading to a blurring of the boundaries across blue-collar, managerial, and technical work.
There has been considerable research on blue-collar work and