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Machines and the Manufacturing Environment The development of general-purpose machines in Great Britain in the late 1700s precipitated a fundamental change in the way products were created. The impact of this shift from "making" to "manufacturing," though significant, was comparatively localized and was resisted in some industries. The textile industry survived labor resistance to mechanization largely because the lower prices that could be charged for products produced by machine generated more business and an attendant need for more labor. More widely felt was the innovation of inter- changeable parts in the mid-l8OOs; which in the United States gave rise to the fac- tory system. With the shift from general-purpose machine shop to factory, the minimum efficient scale for labor increased from 40 to 100 people. widespread adoption of the Taylor doctrine of scientific management in the early 1900s drove the figure to 300. Development of a conveyor transport system in 1910 gave rise to mass production, which led to a 62 percent drop in the price of automobiles. A subsequent Unfold increase in demand led to a tripling of the auto industry's labor force over Me next decade. Mechanization of manufacturing reached its zenith in the mid-19SOs. Emphasis subsequently shifted to monitoring (statistical process control); controlling (numerically controlled machines); and, most recently, coordinating (computer- integrated manufacturing) production. With each of these shifts, the information load on the worker increased and the requisite technical skill requirements changed. The introduction of robots in the 1960s and 1970s, and their diffusion in the 1980s, changed the composition of indirect labor; maintenance went up and manufacturing overhead declined. (The changing role of labor in the Japanese auto industry is trued in Figure 2.) Given 100 blue collar workers today and no s
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6 Q 0.7 ,,, 0.6 he o 0.6 o 0-4 s ,- 0.3 Z 0.2 | Newly Employed | Electrical and Electron cs Engineers/Mechanical Engineers - - Standard LPresent Personnel | 1.4 1.3 z _ ~ ~ o oh tar he In a: l 1982 1983 1984 1985 1986 1987 1988 1989 YEAR FIGURE 2 Employment trends. SOURCE: Toyota Motor Co~poranon. 1 dramatic growth in output, it is likely that in 10 years there will be 60 and in 20 years 40, of whom only 5 will be traditional blue collar workers. The remainder will be in management, process improvement, and engineering The Scaler Of workers' collars is increasingly expected to blur. In the United States only 20 percent of workers are currently employed in man- ufacturing. The Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts 15 percent by the year 2000, somewhat less dramatic a decline than that experienced in agriculture, which today employs only 3-5 percent of the labor force. Yet the trend is clearly toward fewer and more highly skilled workers. Employment in the U.S. auto industry dropped by nearly half in the 4-year period between 1978 and 1982, leading to the development of retraining programs for displaced workers. General Motors alone has retrained some 80,000 workers since that time. Although software development in the information industry, with its 20 percent annual increase in employment, might seem a promising destination for displaced production workers, job retraining is complicated by an up to 20 per- cent illiteracy rate among workers in some U.S. auto plants. The Japanese were quicker to recognize the need for anticipatory retraining and union management negotiations. Toyota's retraining programs in maintenance and repair are extended to equipment suppliers and subcontractors, as well as to indi- rect workers. In the United States job security in the auto industry was negotiated , O O
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7 in 1984 and again in 1987. Jobs were guaranteed to SS percent of the work force in return for union cooperation in increasing productivity through technological change. The impetus for this rough equivalent of lifetime employment came from the auto workers' unions, with management subsequently coming to see its value. Today, workers displaced by robots are pooled to await reassignment or retraining. Any such layoffs that occur now are market related. Other unions have achieved less cooperation than the United Auto Workers. With a drop in the union work force from 35 percent in the mid-1950s to less than 17 percent in 1989, the role of unions in the U.S. economy is clearly declining. Changes in the quality of labor must be managed carefully. Robotics is still an evolving technology. As the special-purpose robots that displaced unskilled pro- duction workers in heavy and dirty work are joined by flexible robots designed to accommodate production of greater varieties of products in smaller quantities, the requisite skill levels demanded of manufacturing's human work force will be pushed still higher. Robots are no longer considered special equipment, but rather advanced forms of automated machinery. In facilitating the rapid growth of manufacturing, robotics has precipitated expansion in many tertiary industries. Increasing demand for consumer goods has necessitated expansion of distribution systems, including transportation and communication. In Japan industrial robot technology developed for primary and secondary industries is being applied in such areas as warehous- ing, cargo handling, and maintenance. Examples include an unattended robotics system for supermarkets and a maintenance robot for toll roads. Service industries associated with education and amusement have expanded with the rising level of consumption and increase in leisure time. Maintenance, cleaning, and repair have evolved as a new type of service industry. The technology of the so-called trans- port robot can be applied to the unattended transport of linens and meals in hospi- tals and hotels. Already in Japan there are examples of robots in customer service occupations, including a robot that takes orders and carries dishes in a restaurant and a robot that substitutes for a company receptionist. Low productivity in service industries, and in other industries, such as construc- tion, is directly related to the lack of automation. The urgent need for robots in these industries cannot be met with existing industrial robots, which are designed largely to substitute for dedicated machines and, to a lesser extent, for manual operations. A new generation of more flexible, intelligent robots is needed.