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High-tech expectations.

High-tech expectations

The focus of manufacturing today is on automation aimed at making higher-quality, lower-cost products more efficiently. While a great deal is said about the mechanical elements involved in automating metalworking operations, the things that cause people the most concern are the concepts involved in implementing new technology.

One of the problems is that we are dealing less with making things and more with handling information. Moreover, we don't know quite what to expect from the implementation of new technology; in fact, we don't even know how to define our expectations. Part of the problem is that new developments are occurring very rapidly. As a result, we have no idea where we are on the rising scale of new technology.

Some very intriguing thoughts along this line were expressed recently by Charles F Carter, technical director of Cincinnati Milacron, in a presentation entitled, "The automation of work.' He said, "There is a pitfall in automating work, and in computer-integrated manufacturing in general. In our rush to use the tools being made available, we may not take the time to define the problems to be solved. As a result, implementations and solutions do not always mesh with our expectations.'

Carter lists some questions that should be asked. What is the order of importance of problems we wish to solve? Is it to reduce cost by removing labor? Do we want to shorten lead time or shorten the response time to change? He points out that it may be harder to quantify how much of a change we wish to make, and if we can't quantify, we can't measure success.

A key question, which can have great impact on the success of an automation application, is how much do we expect to change the structure of the workplace when new automation technology is implemented? For example, if part-handling robots are to be used, the workplace must be more highly structured than when a man performs part-handling operations. When flexible manufacturing systems are installed, there must be discipline in supporting a frozen period in the schedule so the system can operate without disruption.

Few shops have the organization and discipline in place to perform necessary functions without fail before a system is installed. Whenever systems have not met expectations, the failure can be traced almost without exception to the fact that the user did not expect he would have to make changes in so much of the support activity around the system. On the other hand, the discipline required to achieve expected advantages from the system is usually brought about by changes in the organization. There must be a sharing of information and an organization of support to make new computer-based technologies successful.

In the final analysis, according to Carter, we find that the automation of work is usually a catalyst leading to the restructuring of the work and the organization--which yields gains even without the automation.
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Title Annotation:computer-aided-manufacturing pitfalls
Author:Green, Dick
Publication:Tooling & Production
Article Type:editorial
Date:Feb 1, 1984
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