New technology: Choice, control and skills
This paper examines some of the psychological and organizational aspects of computer-based technology, with particular focus on the use of Computerised Numerical Control (CNC) machine tools in manufacturing engineering. The objective is to introduce and develop some ideas from the fields of occupational psychology and organizational behaviour in ways that will promote an understanding of the uses and impact of advanced computerised technology.
The paper argues against the technological determinist view that once an organization has chosen its technology, then this inevitably leads to a particular form of organization and style of management. The aim is to demonstrate the reverse, that organizations have a choice in how to organize for and manage new technology and that one very important aspect of this choice concerns who has day-to-day operational control of the equipment. The argument is that such choices need analysing in their organizational context since they are in part dependent upon other factors in the organization. Furthermore these choices have major implications for the profile and distribution of skills required in the organization and, at the same time, have a major bearing on the pattern of economic and social benefits and costs which accrue.
The paper draws on material from two case studies undertaken by the authors and refers to relevant theoretical literatures. Before presenting the case material we describe what is involved in CNC machine tool working: first however we briefly outline our research interests in this area and our normal method of working.
KeywordsMachine Tool Operational Control Small Batch Relative Investment Computerise Numerical Control
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