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92 .

Exploratory Workshop on the Social Impacts of Robotics

2

from a vances

variety of developments. in technology; increases

The most important among these include: ad- in the scale of production; improvements in the

output and quality capabilities of equipment; adjustments in and continuing increments in the effectiveness of production

labor contributions; planning and control.

Because the effectiveness of such operations depends on integrating all these factors, changes in any one are likely to interact with others. Hence, evalu- ation of the effects of any innovation requires consideration of all resulting readjustments in the system.

After basic advances in technology, the most important and continuous source of gains in the physical efficiency of production operations in the past has probably been increases in the specialization of facilities and equipment. The degree of specialization which was found most rewarding was determined by the variety and volume of output which needed to be processed by the given equipment. Thus, increases in the standardization of products and in the quantity required encouraged the introduction of progressively more narrowly specialized production

systems.

Eventually,

the

manufacture

of

completely

uniform

products

in

very

large

quantities led to the construction of interlocking arrays of highly specialized machines capable of producing enormous quantities with very great physical

efficiency. in product

Such “dedicated systems”, however, designs or processing methods. As a

permit only minor adjustments result, they are not applicable

to the overwhelming production of wider

proportion of manufacturing activities which involve the

arrays

of

products

in

smaller

quantities.

In

addition,

the

heavy investment

required by such dedicated systems, combined with their very

limited flexibility, also encourages their users to and improvements in production methods in an effort ment as long as possible.

resist to use

changes in products their existing equip-

Of course, engineering design permits a wide range in the extent to which

specialization

is

built

into

production

machinery.

Thus,

“general

purpose”

equipment functions

may be designed to accommodate a wide array of tools in return for limiting its rate of output as well as

and processing other capabilities

in respect to any particular dependent on the concomitant

task. Such specialized

equipment’s output is also contributions of operators

heavily and other

service offered capable

personnel.

And intermediate degrees of equipment specialization have

progressively larger trade-offs of decreases in the of being performed,as well as decreases in reliance

range of functions on the specialized

contributions of operators and other external the level of output, quality and effectiveness

inputs,in return for increases in of designated production tasks.

I

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