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App. B—Commissioned Background Papers

23

It should also be noted that one of the most important future sources of technological competitiveness in manufacturing industries -- the development of increasingly encompassing systems of programmable automation -- has not yet advanced sufficiently to minimize the possibility that intensified domestic

efforts might not only match be recognized, however, that make substantial investments

grammable

controls.

Indeed,

but might even surpass foreign progress. vendors of particular components are not

It should likely to

in developing they are more

broadly comprehensive systems of pro- likely to resist any such developments

which might generate requirements for components with characteristics different

from their own offerings.

Moreover, few manufacturers are likely

programmable

automation

systems

which

are

applicable

beyond

their

to develop own unique

operating

and

organizational

arrangements.

Hence,

the

practical

questions

would

seem to be:

what span of operating and

functional coverage would be applicable

widely

enough

to

warrant

the

investment

in

developing

it?

and

who

might

consider

it worth making such manufacturing plants

a commitment?

Efforts

are

being

supported

by

to develop government

such systems in aircraft

agencies.

And

some

private

firms have joined in developing some common components of such systems.

But no

comprehensive review of what needs to fectively organized efforts might be,

be is

done, or what the available at this

benefits of more ef-

time.

Here,

then,

is

another area in which governmental support may yield valuable contributions to advancing the competitiveness of domestic manufacturing.

2.

On the Adequacy of Diffusion Rates

The impact of technological advances on market competitiveness is determined not by the location or rate of their development, but by the rate of their dif-

fusion and the extent of their utilization.

Although some observers claim that

Japanese industry has grammable automation

surpassed the United States in systems as well as of robots,

the such

utilization of pro- applications still account

for

only

very

limited

sectors

of

their

manufacturing

industries

and

are

even

sparser

in Western Europe,

Accordingly, there is still a wide open opportunity for

manufacturing to overcome its improvements in its productive

current lags in this area and thereby efficiency and cost competitiveness.

achieve

domestic major

What factors have retarded the more rapid diffusion of these technologies? Perhaps the most important influence has been the basic unawareness of most in- dustrial managements of the far-reaching potentials of this burgeoning revolution

in

manufacturing

technology.

Such

inadequate

appreciation

of

these

potentials

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