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App. B—Commissioned Background Papers

25

3.

Effects of Altering Development and Diffusion Rates

Appraising the adequacy of current rates of adopting and utilizing program- mable automation and robotics obviously requires consideration of attendant

enbefits and burdens.

Past adoptions

gradual

to

engender

little

observable

of both effects

have been sufficiently limited and on the employment and skill require-

ments

of

the

work

force,

while

increasing

the

need

for

servicing

personnel.

This

experience has engendered some unconvincing assurances that the accelerated dif- fusion of such technologies will not entail significant displacements of labor at the same time that others have emphasized the urgency of utilizing these advances in order to overcome serious shortcomings in cost competitiveness through the attendant reductions made possible in labor requirements.

The basic decline in its

fact is that unemployment in any

competitiveness.

If

it

fails

to

firm is caused primarily by a adopt the technological advances

utilized by adopts such

competitors,

its employment will decline much more rapidly than if it

advances,

even

if

these

involve

some

displacement

of

labor.

Moreover,

for

many

domestic

industries

such

effects

represent

costs

which

have

already

been

exacted and which threaten to become even greater if

reduced.

Regaining

competitiveness

in

some

domestic

technological lags industries may now

are not require

reductions in man-hour requirements per unit of output of at least 20-30 per cent. (13) Moreover, such lags are continuing to grow as foreign competitors’

efforts to surpass American performance keep intensifying -- as may be illustrated by Japanese developments in the steel, automobile, machine tool and semiconductor

industries. is imperative.

In short, major improvements in the performance of domestic Hence, rejecting attempts to accelerate the diffusion of

mable

automation

and

robotics

could

only

be

justified

by

identifying

and

industries program- then

promoting other means of achieving the efficiency and cost competitiveness of

needed large advances in the productive major industries within the next five years.

It should also be recognized that implementing the major advances in tech- nology involved in accelerating tha application of programmable automation represents

a much more difficult and far–reaching challenge to management than is generally

recognized. nologies are

The key reason for this is the failure to recognize that basic built not only into the production machinery, but also into:

tech-

(13) For a comparison of labor requirements in the Japanese and U.S. steel industries,

see B. Gold,

“Steel Technologies and Costs in the

Steel

Engineer,

April

1978.

Japanese

translation

U.S. and Japan”, Iron in Joho Shuho (Tokyo)

and

July 1978.

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