The information society
Thursday 2nd February 1995
Jobs and technology
Are the overall effects neutral?
- in the structure of the economy
- in career openings for new entrants
- in the requirements for education and training
- appearance of instability in previously secure sectors
Occupational structure of UK distributive trades
Occupational structure of UK manufacturing industry
Employment in Scotland by sector 1980-1991
Comparison of unemployment rates
Production line (only cost US$ 3,500).
- easy to fit (hence cheaper)
- easy to repair
Investment in machinery (embedded skill).
Division of labour:
Assembly time with production line.
- indirect (maintenance and cleaning)
- industrial engineers
In stark contrast [to a craft worker], the assembler on Ford’s mass-production line had only one task--to put two nuts on two bolts or perhaps to attach one wheel to each car. He didn’t order parts, procure his tools, repair his equipment, inspect for quality, or even understand what the workers on either side of him were doing. Rather he kept his head down and thought about other things.
Womack, Jones and Roos (1990) page 31.
The rise of the blue collar worker
- mass production applied to a whole range of activities
- spread internationally from USA
- exported by US-based multinational companies
- copied by foreigners
- rapidly accepted by management and unionised labour
- constant striving for improved products
- constant striving for improved processes
- an external check
- after the event -- don’t interrupt the manufacturing process
- identification through statistical analysis
- correction by re-working and scrapping
The falling costs of information technology offered new ways to manufacture and to control.
- powerful graphics workstations for Computer Aided Design
- computer numerically controlled machines
- Flexible Manufacturing Systems (FMS)
- robots and Automatic Guided Vehicles (AGVs)
- automated warehouses
Levels of automation
- integration with suppliers and customers
- integration of business and manufacturing systems
- Computer Integrated Manufacturing (CIM)
- Workstations and cells
- individual controllers on machines
- product design
- order processing
- Materials Requirement Planning (MRP)
- capacity planning
- production planning
- production control
- inventory management
- materials handling
- data recording
- cost accounting
There are choices in automation.
- reduce the physical effort required
- reduce the skill required
- allow management more control
- centralisation of control and decision-making
- operator told how to carry out work
- standardisation of work
- one best way of working
- functional specialisation
- simplification of work
- imposing methods and solutions
- decentralisation of control and decision-making
- operator decides how work is carried out
- operator develops own working methods
- many good ways of working
- multi-skilled operator
- variety of complex tasks
- consultation and participation
Henry Ford’s mass production drove the auto industry for more
than half a century and was eventually adopted in almost every
industrial activity in North America and Europe. Now, however,
those same techniques, so ingrained in manufacturing philosophy,
are thwarting the efforts of many Western companies to move
ahead to lean production.
Assembly time for luxury cars
Womack, Jones and Roos (1990).
Principles of lean production
- efficient use of resources and elimination of waste
- continuous improvement
Advantages of lean production
- half the human effort in the factory
- half the manufacturing space
- half the investment in tools
- half the engineering hours
- half the time to develop new products
IT in the motor car
- engine control
- navigation assistance/control
- growing value of electronics as a percentage of value
- decades of unchanged and unchallenged practices
- “Battle of Wapping”
- direct entry of text to avoid re-keying
- electronic typesetting replacing hot metal
- transmission of text to remote sites for local printing
The decline of the blue collar worker
- emphasis on quality and flexibility
- integration of manufacturing technologies
- need to cut costs
- no longer needed in factories
Categories of openings
- in-person service (many)
- routine production services (declining)
- symbolic analysts (few)
... include all the problem-solving, problem-identifying, and strategic brokering activities ... can be traded worldwide and thus compete with foreign providers even in the American market.
Reich (1991) p. 177.
Routine production services
... the kinds of repetitive tasks performed by the old foot soldiers of American capitalism in the high volume enterprise.
Reich (1991) p. 174.
- retail sales
- waiters and waitresses
- hospital attendants
- taxi drivers
- house cleaners
- personal fitness instructors
- security guards
- changes in technology
- elimination of many dangerous, difficult and dull jobs
- recognition of the importance of the motivation of workforce
- changes in the ways in which technology is used
Reich, R B (1991) "The Work of Nations; preparing ourselves for 21st century
capitaism" Knopf, New York.
Womack, J.P., Jones, D. T., and Roos, D. (1990) "The Machine that Changed
the World" HarperPerennial, London
Zuboff, Shoshana (1988) "In the Age of the Smart Machine"
Heap et al. (1995) "Information Technology and Society"
- Technological Change and the Future of Work Peter Senker
- Technological Change at Work Ian McLoughlin and Jon Clark
- Robotics, Automation and a New Industrial REvolution Paul Kennedy
- The Pursuit of Flexible Specialisation in Britain and West Germany Christel Lane
Copyright © Ewan Sutherland, 1995.