The impact of NC machinery upon manufacturing industry
The changing face of industry due to the adoption of `New Technology' is briefly discussed, as are the corresponding structural changes in the workforce. The adoption of NC machinery is identified as one of the major innovations affecting the structure of industry. The development of NC machinery, and of relevant programming techniques are reviewed, and the problems arising from its initial sponsorship by the aerospace industry are highlighted. The process of its subsequent diffusion into industry is reviewed. Skill levels adopted for NC use in Britain and Germany are discussed, and analysed to create a structural pattern. These classifications of skill levels are then used to examine the organisational structures adopted by companies utilising NC machines. The greater use made of higher level shop floor skills by German companies is discussed. The results of two surveys of the use made of NC by companies in the North East of England are presented. Effective company organisation for NC use is described, and lack of foresight is shown to lead to vulnerability problems where skills can become concentrated in a few key people. This led to closure of a company in one instance. It is shown that small sub-contract companies have adopted a highly skilled shop floor workforce, and that they have survived in the present hostile economic environment, whilst companies who have used NC to de-skill the shop floor contracted dramatically in the same period. The lack of awareness of the potential for reviewing the product design in relation to the flexibility of NC, so leading to reductions in work in progress levels, is highlighted. Recommendations for skill structures appropriate to various sized companies and suitable training programs are presented to ensure that the full potential of NC machinery is achieved.