European Commission

Employment, Social Affairs & Inclusion

Project Description

Smart Industrial Relations - Smart production in the manufacturing industry and work organisation: new scenarios for Industrial Relations



In the last years Europe and Italy have seen the birth of a group of medium and large successful businesses (fourth capitalism), that, through the so-called "smart" production systems, have achieved success on world markets even standing up to the recent economic crisis. Robotics, new materials and advanced devices, virtual prototyping and, generally, applications of digital technologies to manufacturing, are emerging in the production systems of these companies. What is the impact of smart production on work organization and on the quantitative and qualitative aspects of employment? Of course, the application of digital technologies has required and requires radical changes in the productive and organizational methods.

Developing human and organizational capital, minimizing the environmental impact, using renewable resources, increasing efficiency and flexibility of machineries: these are what characterizes this new phase of the manufacturing system.

Besides, regarding the quality of employment, according to some recent studies in Europe two models of work organization are emerging. Especially in the so-called “smart factories” there is a "collaborative manufacturing": in some companies workers take part in the solution of problems, facing and resolving  the unexpected, and in return receive a cooperative atmosphere, training, opportunities for a career advancement and an increase of their employability. Opposed to this model is that of the "constructive manufacturing", a way of production based on the “disposable work", low-skilled competences, precarious forms of work, little opportunity for workers to train.


In Europe, some studies count about 100,000 companies that refer to the production (or fourth capitalism); in Italy we can talk about 4,000 or 5,000 companies, rooted almost entirely in the north and in the center of the country. They are specialized in the typical fields of Made in Italy. In Eastern Europe, as well as in Portugal, these phenomena are linked mainly to the relocation processes launched in recent years by the large multinational companies operating in the industry. Anyway, this is a growing phenomenon both in Italy and in Europe, a result that must be related also to the results of the processes of corporate restructuring that have started during the crisis.


In this context, industrial relations are particularly concerned by the emergence of new modes of production. Facing the advance of technology, which typically involves a less intensive use of labor force, work organization and the participation of the worker to production are undergoing a major conversion (amount of employment, types of contract, protection, incentives and rewards, active involvement of the worker in the production process, training, satisfaction), still not fully understood. The studies that analyze the changes within the labor relations and caused by intelligent production are still not many. There is the need for a better understanding of the phenomena mentioned above and the consequent development of new patterns of reading and industrial relations models. How can the social partners improve industrial relations for the management of these processes?


Aims and detailed description of the project activities


On this basis, the objectives our project pursues are consistent with EU, since the project will include a phase of study on the new modes of production (smart production) and in general on the processes of change (anticipation, preparation and management), and promoting the realization of measures (elaboration of operational guidelines for industrial relations, training for the social partners) to develop an appropriate capacity building of the social partners. In particular, the project aims to facilitate the adaptation of industrial relations systems to the changes in the world of work, in line with the Europe 2020 strategy (a strategy for a smart, sustainable and inclusive growth) and with the recent politic orientations manifested by the EU Commission (growth, equity and democratic change). In this context, consistent with the requirements of the Call, our proposal is geared to contribute to the construction of new systems for the industrial relations: this contribution consists of enabling a wide and varied partnership (6 partner countries including two Eastern European countries; four research institutes; six Trade Union organizations; two representatives of the employers of Pirelli and Sorin (multinational companies); the council of workers of Volkswagen) and a strong emphasis on the issues of territorial inequality.


The proposed project will consist of three main phases: research, exchange of experiences, development of general guidelines and training for the social partners.

The starting point is the awareness that the processes of smart production are still not well known in Europe and in particular in the partner countries. Precisely for this reason we have designed a series of activities dedicated to the implementation of quantitative and qualitative surveys, which will be done by 4 research institutes.

The first phase (from the first to the sixth month) will start on the 21st of March 2016, and afterwards the kick off meeting will be held in Turin on 18th April 2016.  There  will be a task force, which will be made of members of the 3 research institutes involved in the project and representatives of the other partners. On the basis of a proposal made by Ires Morosini, the methodology and tools for the analysis and evaluation for the realization of the first phase and the sharing of experiences (second phase) will be developed.

Two studies will be undertaken on a transnational level, as well as an in-depth analysis regarding a smart production experience (Volkswagen in Portugal is characterized by the strong use of robotics, returned by an adaptation of work organization and new industrial relationships) and two model/demonstration experiences well known in Piedmont (the multinational Pirelli in Turin and Sorin in Saluggia, Vercelli) for smart production and presence of good industrial relations in the production of medical equipment (chemical sector).

As for an investigation plan, first a desk analysis will be prepared to study at a European level the smart production in the manufacturing sectors, with particular emphasis on the mechanical, the automotive and the chemical one. The experiences in many EU states, especially those in the partner countries, will be examined. In particular, FIEQUIMETAL of Portugal (Federação Intersindical das Indústrias Metalúrgicas, Químicas, Eléctricas, Farmacêutica, Celulose, Papel, Gráfica, Imprensa, Energia e Minas – CGTP Portugal) will conduct an analysis on smart production in Portugal; the Institute for Employment Studies in London (England) will take care of smart manufacture in Western Europe (Belgium, France, Scandinavian Countries, UK); the Institute for Social and Trade Union Research (ISTUR) in Sofia (Bulgaria) will study at a national level and Ires Lucia Morosini will conduct an analysis on smart production in Italy, Austria, Germany and Spain. In addition, the Polish National Union (Federacja Zwiazkow Zawodowych Metalowcy) will conduct, through its research department, a survey on the national smart production, with particular reference to the experience achieved in the field of Fca Tychy.


The desk analysis will focus in particular on:


  1. a) business strategies related to work organization, safety, protection of rights, human resources, constant training, forms of contract, workers' participation in the production process, wages and forms of incentives; b) experienced and consolidated models of industrial relations; c) the context (institutional and of adjustment, socio-economic and territorial) that can support the development of smart production.

The second study will be conducted through the administration of a semi-structured questionnaire  (including 40 representatives of employers' associations and leading companies, 40 trade unionists and 20 witnesses, among which experts and public administrators), to investigate the more qualitative aspects of the smart factory, identify good practices, acquiring suggestions to improve industrial relations. The study will be conducted by Ires Lucia Morosini, who will set the questionnaire in cooperation with other research institutes and partners; administer questionnaires to the stakeholders sample; elaborate statistical data; prepare commentary to statistical analysis. Stakeholders will be selected within the first two months of the project, based on the criteria identified during the meeting in Turin. However, it is expected that 50% of the stakeholders to be interviewed resides in the partner countries of the project while the other half is in other European countries, particularly in Northern Europe, France and Germany (where the processes of industrial production appear more intense). Ires Morosini will also cure the qualitative study on the experience of the Pirelli and Sorin production in Italy, which operates in the field of medical equipment.

In this phase, on 29th and 30th June 2016, a workshop will be held in Barcelona, in order to make a first interim evaluation, gain new perspectives through the sharing of experiences, harmonize methods and analysis techniques. On this occasion, Ires Morosini will administer to all partners a short questionnaire to assess the progress of research activities also in order to possibly reschedule the works.

2nd phase: months 7-14

In the second phase we will make 3 workshops (Rome, Lisbon, Sofia), with the expected participation of about 30 stakeholders (union representatives, managers and company executives, representatives of business associations, academics, public officials, other experts) for each event; competent or interested local actors will also be added to participate to the project, alongside with the partners. During the meetings we will use, for a better communication and a broader participation, the streaming method.

The priority aims of the workshop are: the exchange of experience, the verification of the results obtained in the first phase, the sharing of experiences, the identification of best practices (particularly, those regarding industrial relations) and the acquisition of new points of view, the formulation of operational guidelines for the management of industrial relations in the context of "smart production", the preparation of a series of trainings for the experimental application of such guidelines.

On 12th and 13th December 2016 a workshop will take place in Rome, and it will cover the following topics: presentation of research results (Bulgarian, English and Italian research institutes) and requests for clarification. Industrial relations in smart factory. Sharing of experiences, identifying best practices and acquisition of new points of view. Presentation of the in-depth study done by the Polish trade union on the smart production in Poland; presentation of the in-depth study on smart production and industrial relations in Italy (Sorin multinational).

On 6th and 7th February 2017, in Lisbon, Portugal, a workshop will be held; it will cover the following topics: presentation of research results (Fiequimetal, English and Italian research institutes) and requests for clarification. Smart production in Europe and in partner countries. Sharing of experiences, identifying best practices and acquisition of new points of view. Presentation of the deepening of quality on  smart production in Italy (Pirelli) Portugal (Volkswagen).

On 3th and 4th April 2017 in Sofia, Bulgaria, a workshop will be held. Its themes will be: The sharing of experiences, formulation of hypotheses for improving industrial relations in the field of smart production; definition of the criteria to be adopted for the preparation of the trainings for the social partners. Evaluation of the second phase.

30 people will attend each event. Among these are also included local stakeholders. Furthermore, a streaming connection with other European representatives (such as trade unions, employers' associations, public officials, experts) will be made, in order to widen the participation to the workshops.

Even on this occasion Ires Morosini will administer to all partners a short questionnaire to assess the progress of activities, also with the aim of rescheduling any program of work, if necessary.

The workshops will be structured as seminars; therefore, research institutes will prepare, based on a previously decided division of tasks, the minutes for each meeting containing the analysis of the results of the sharing of experiences in order to enrich the study and broaden the view of the investigation. Hence, the British partner will take care of the verbal and analyzing the results of the workshops in Barcelona and Warsaw, the Portuguese Research Institute will handle the documentation for the workshop in Lisbon and the Bulgarian Research Institute of the documentation regarding the workshop in Sofia.


3rd phase: months 15-22

In the third phase, the partners will develop operational guidelines to promote strategies that facilitate the management of industrial relations in smart production.

These operational guidelines will focus on the following aspects: the relationship between technology and a smaller need for labor; the promotion of good practices for the protection of workers' rights; the different forms of work organization; the participation of employees in production processes; the "collaborative manufacturing”; the importance of trainings in smart production; safety; anticipation; preparation; management of change.

As a conclusion for this work a training will be carried out by internal and external experts in the working group; the training will be open to 100 representatives of social partners, for a period of 8 hours. The 5 training sessions will be realized in September 2017 (from the 11th until the 15th) in each partner country (with the exception of England). The aim of the training is to raise awareness on the processes of smart production (respecting also regional disparities and inequalities that emerge from the analysis carried out), as well as to provide operational guidance on key issues under industrial relations and on issues concerning the anticipation, preparation and management of change. The trainings in Bulgaria, Italy and Portugal will be led by research institutions (project partners) operating in these countries. As for Poland and Spain, outside experts will lead the workshops, anyway on the basis of guidelines issued by the partners.

The participants in the training will be identified by each partner.

After the training there will be a final meeting of the project, which will have a dual purpose. The first part will evaluate the results of the training, the final report and its operational guidelines will be approved, and we will organize the dissemination phase. The second part will be attended by various stakeholders and the representatives of the EU (in particular trade unions and employers' associations) and will have the aim of promoting a first dissemination of results and hypotheses of development of the project.




The project consists of the following partners:

Applicant - Ires Lucia Morosini;

Co-applicant – CGIL Piemonte (Confederazione Generale Italiana del Lavoro - Italy), Filctem Piemonte (Federazione Italiana Lavoratori Chimica, Tessili, Energia, Manifatturiero - Italy), Filctem Torino (Federazione Italiana Lavoratori Chimica, Tessili, Energia, Manifatturiero - Italy), CCOO de Catalunya (Confederación Sindical de Comisiones Obreras), FZZM (Federacja Zwiqzkow Zawodowych METALOWCY - Poland), FIEQUIMETAL – CGTP (Federação Intersindical das Indústrias Metalúrgicas, Químicas, Eléctricas, Farmacêutica, Celulose, Papel, Gráfica, Imprensa, Energia e Minas - Portugal), IES (Institute for Employment Studies - UK),  ISTUR (Institute for Social and Trade Union research – Bulagaria);

Associate – Pirelli Spa company (Italy), Sorin Spa company (Italy),  Work Council of Volkswagen (Portugal). 

Starting Phase of the project (lst - 6th month).


a. Organization of the first meeting with all the members.

b. Preparation of the analysis grid with key informants and desks, criteria, indicators, contents, after consultation with European partners.

c. Identification of an expert to be involved in the Task Force for the realization of the analysis desk.

d. Preparation of criteria for the interim and final evaluation.

e. Preparation of the quality survey: 100 semistructured questionnaire.

f. Preparation of a qualitative study on the experience of production and in terms of industrial relations made in Pirelli and Sorin.

g. Preparation of a report first collecting all the results of the carried out analysis, including the identified best practices. of the workshop in Barcelon.


Intermediate phase of the project (7th-14th month).


a. Coordination for the preparation of the sharing of experiences.

b. Co-organization of 3 workshops.

c. Analysis of the results of the exchanges of experiences in collaboration with the other research institutes.

d) Preparation and implementation of the conference in streaming mode.


Final phase of the project (15th-23rd month)


a. Preparation of the final document.

b. Preparation of guidelines for industrial relations in the field of the smart production.

c. Preparation of the web page structure in English and in Italian.

d.Coordination, co-organization and implementation of training in the partner countries, organization and management of Turin's training (8 hours).

e.Coordination and organization of the final meeting in Brussels with European partners, preparation and implementation of the conference in streaming mode.