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The next 50 years in metalworking.

Back in 1934, the US was climbing out of the Great Depression. It was not the best of times. There were signs of recovery but industry was still struggling for orders, hoping to be able to boost production and put people back to work.

As part of a move to organize the nation's fragmented tool, die and machine shop industry, a magazine was launched. Its purpose was to communicate with shop owners, and to give them help in improving their operations.

Those early magazine issues described a technology primitive by today's standards. The leading edge of that technology included things like high-speed tool steel, quick-release workholdin clamps and forged-steel socket screws. Some machine tools were still being driven by line shafts and leather belts. They were manned by skilled machinists, many of whom could expect to spend their entire working lives in the same shop, at the same machine.

The technology of metalworking did not change very dramatically in the years that followed. To be sure, there were many incremental refinements. But even the great mobilization of machines and manpower during World War II--while accomplishing an almost impossible task--did not by any means produce great leaps in technology. You don't improve manufacturing science simply by working large numbers of men and machines over long hours. The concept of numerical control of machine tools--one of the most significant advances in manufacturing technology--was not developed until 1952. It took a few more decades before microelectronics found its way to the shop floor.

It would seem appropriate to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Tooling & Production by recounting events of the past. Reminiscing about how things were in shops during the good old days can bring smiles to the faces of old-timers. We cannot help but admire the skills and craftsmanship of all those hands who turned the cranks and set the dials of the machines that produced the world's most advanced economy and highest standard of living.

But things have changed. No one would have dreamed that America's productivity would fall below that of countries we once considered industrially backward and technologically inferior. Today, many companies are fighting for survival. Some are taking actions that would have been unheard of a few years ago. No one would have predicted that GM would join forces with a Japanese company to make cars in California; that Ford would consider building Japanese cars in Mexico; that US steel companies would be buying Brazilian steel slabs for rolling into bar stock in US mills. Many global factors--political, sociological and economic--have influenced manufacturing.

Not only have management and marketing strategies changed, but so has manufacturing technology--dramatically--over the past few years. And it will continue to change at an even faster rate in the years ahead. Inherent in these changes is the fact that success in manufacturing enterprises of the future will be linked to mental skills needed to massage computer keyboards, not the manual arts and crafts of the past.

Rather than look back to where we came from, we feel a 50th anniversary celebration should look forward to what's ahead. Our theme in this special issue--INSIGHT:2034--the next 50 years in metalworking--is intended to do that.
COPYRIGHT 1984 Nelson Publishing
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Copyright 1984 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Author:Green, Dick
Publication:Tooling & Production
Article Type:editorial
Date:Mar 1, 1984
Words:529
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