Technology is the systematic knowledge of the industrial arts.
Industrial engineers have been applying technology to the workplace for
over two centuries. Manufacturing systems analysed by method and time
studies have been improved by the division of labour, automation and
robotics. Large productivity improvements have been achieved by
applying technology to manufacturing processes. From the mechanisation
of flour production to the robotic assembly of vehicles, process costs
have been reduced. The application of technology to the motor industry
has resulted in vast increases in productivity.
Method study is concerned with the dissection of a complex operation
into it’s single constituent parts, which are then systematically
analysed. The method study engineer synthesises the complete operation
using components which optimise factors such as symmetry and the rhythm
The time study engineer measures the time taken to carry out an
operation. The analysis is carried out in a systematic manner and it
makes this form of study suitable only for simple and repetitive tasks.
Often, time study exposes inefficient operations and these can then be
analysed using method study.
It was the use of both method and time studies that led to the
wide-scale use of the division of labour and the creation of the
assembly line concept. Workers grouped on lines achieve productivity
levels many times greater than single operatives making the entire
Automation has also produced large productivity increases by replacing
men with machines. In highly automated manufacturing plants, the
operator controls and supervises the process. The main power olders in
future societies will not be capitalists or socialists, but people who
possess expert technological skills. In this way, power will be passed
to the techno-structure.
Automation in the manufacturing industries covers a whole range of
electrical and mechanical equipment. In the field of automatic
assembly, devices are used for automatic feeding and insertion. In
addition, work transfer is by conveyor or rotating table. The type of
system used for the assembly of a product is dependent upon many
factors. The local cost of labour affects the economic justification of
using automation to replace that labour. The frequency of design
changes and the number of product styles dictate how flexible the
equipment needs to be. The market life of the product influences the
amortisation period of the capital investment. Finally, the annual
product volume determines the required cycle time.
In addition to the above economic considerations, another reason for
employing automatic assembly may be one of necessity. In certain areas,
where labour is scarce, the use of automatic assembly is imperative.
Certain operations may be hazardous or they must take place in
dangerous working conditions. For example, the handling of toxic
chemicals or working in extreme temperature conditions may exclude the
use of manual workers. A further reason may be associated with the
scheduling of the assembly operations: better control over production
can be achieved with automation and product quality will be more