Automation, rationalisation and concentration : a case study in the British chemical industry
This thesis is based upon a case study of the adoption of digital, electronic, microprocessor-based control systems by Albright & Wilson Limited - a UK chemical producer. It offers an explanation of the company's changing technology policy between 1978 and 1981, by examining its past development, internal features and industrial environment. Part One of the thesis gives an industry-level analysis which relates the development of process control technology to changes in the economic requirements of production . The rapid diffusion of microcomputers and other microelectronic equipment in the chemical industry is found to be a response to general need to raise the efficiency of all processes, imposed by the economic recession following 1973. Part Two examines the impaot of these technical and eoonomic ohanges upon Albright & Wilson Limited. The company's slowness in adopting new control technology is explained by its long history in which trends are identified whlich produced theconservatism of the 1970s. By contrast, a study of Tenneco Incorporated, a much more successful adoptor of automating technology, is offered with an analysis of the new technology policy of adoption of such equipment which it imposed upon Albright & Wilson, following the latter's takeover by Tenneco in 1978. Some indications of the consequences by this new policy of widespread adoptions of microprocessor-based control equipment are derived from a study of the first Albright & Wilson plant to use such equipment. The thesis concludes that companies which fail to adopt rapidly the new control technology may not survive in the recessionary environment, the long- established British companies may lack the flexibility to make such necessary changes and that multi-national companies may have an important role jn the planned transfer and adoption of new production technology through their subsidiaries in the UK.