120 . Exploratory Workshop on the Social Impacts of Robotics
Mitchell Hutchins Inc.
Real GNP Growth
Real Gross Private
Durable Equipment 5 .7% 2.8$
Productivity y Growth
The economic quick payback.
environment of the 1970s also favored capital outlays AS economists Burton G. Malkiel has pointed out:
"From 1948 to 1973 the (net book value of capital equipment) per
unit of labor grew at an annual rate of almost 3 1973, however, lower rates of private investment
percent. have led
Since to a
composition of and relatively
(in 1978) has been skewed toward equipment projects and away from structures and
relatively long-lived investments. tended to age..."
Thus our industrial plant has
The deline of the U.S. manufacturing base can clearly be seen by looking at the age of U.S. machine tools in place (Table 1) :
Two-thirds of all U.S. machine tools are over ten years old and one-third are more than twenty years old.
The technological penalty is even more severe as sophisticated numerical control equipment has made only slight inroads into the manufacturing process.
By contrast, capital investment as a percentage of GNP in France and West Germany was more than 20% greater than that in the U.S. , while in Japan the percentage was almost double ours.
shocked by faltering productivity and loss of markets to
international deteriorating that actually
competition, have begun to perceive a connection between their
competitive positions and
the neglect of the part of their until recently, productivity was
businesses an economist’s
term rarely used by businessmen. It responsibility for their competitive decline of work effort, unreasonable
is now dawning on some managements that listlessness cannot be blamed simply on government regulation or a shortfall in
investment. with the way
Rather, they are beginning to see it as symptomatic manufacturing operations are set up and organized.
As previously indicated, technological advancement, including improved management
techniques and integration of in the classical equation for
the manufacturing process,
is the related
most important factor technologies, computers
offer prime opportunities for improvement.
U.S. industry today is just
beginning to reap the harvest of computerized production processes during the 1980s.
Until recently, the rationale for robots was that they were useful in heavy, hot,
hazardous and even boring environments.
In addition to this ability
to remove people engine of change
in the manufacturing process.
Robots, particularly with the
American corporations have been behind the Japanese in recognizing the potential of
computers and robots for reducing production costs and increasing the flexibility and