After twelve years, you’d think Luigi would be used to waking up at 4:30 a.m., but the sound of his alarm clock is like a punch to his stomach. Lured by the smell of coffee wafting from his timer-controlled espresso machine, he drags himself out of bed. In the kitchen, he downs a shot and forces himself to eat a croissant before leaving.

The plant has been stressful lately. A few months ago, Alessandro, the general manager, told Luigi and his fellow workers that corporate was threatening to shut down the facility if they didn’t reduce the number of defects in the cooktops and washing machines they made. The defects were costly. Even when someone caught them before the items shipped, they had to be fixed, which ...

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