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120 . Exploratory Workshop on the Social Impacts of Robotics

Mitchell Hutchins Inc.

1959-72 1973-79

3.8$

4.9%

2 .5%

2. 1%

Real GNP Growth

Real Gross Private

Fixed Investment

Real Producers

Real P&E

Durable Equipment 5 .7% 2.8$

2.1$

Productivity y Growth

    • 3.1

      %

    • 1 .5

      %

The economic quick payback.

environment of the 1970s also favored capital outlays AS economists Burton G. Malkiel has pointed out:

that

resulted

in

a

"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

decline

in

that

growth

rate

to

1.75

percent.

Moreover,

the

recent

composition of and relatively

investment short-term

(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.

Corporate managers,

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

produces

goods.

However,

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

the capital

investment. with the way

Rather, they are beginning to see it as symptomatic manufacturing operations are set up and organized.

of

something

wrong

As previously indicated, technological advancement, including improved management

techniques and integration of in the classical equation for

the manufacturing process,

productivity.

Hence,

two

is the related

most important factor technologies, computers

and robots,

offer prime opportunities for improvement.

U.S. industry today is just

beginning to reap the harvest of computerized production processes during the 1980s.

innovations

that

could

revolutionize

Until recently, the rationale for robots was that they were useful in heavy, hot,

hazardous and even boring environments.

In addition to this ability

from

an

unhealthy and/or

even

dangerous

environment,

robots

are

a

key

to remove people engine of change

in the manufacturing process.

Robots, particularly with the

addition

of

computer

type

circuitry,

are

the

initial

entry

into

flexible

automation.

American corporations have been behind the Japanese in recognizing the potential of

computers and robots for reducing production costs and increasing the flexibility and

versatility

of

factory

operations.

While

the

pentration

of

robots

and

computers

into

2

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