Automation on the Shopfloor: Machinists



Machining has been described as ‘part science and part magic’.1 It is a craft not easily understood by strangers to the occupation and not easily described by those who practice it. The machine shop at UFC’s Pine Hill plant is a complete floor of conventional machines which, at first glance, look like huge abstract industrial art pieces with levers, spindles and handles extending from their frames. The larger, numerical control machines are in a room separate from the rest of the machine shop and resemble conveyors of different sized and shaped tools which, on command from a computerized program, spin around, choose the correct tool and carry out drilling and milling processes. There are a few smaller and much quieter machines — whose trade name is Hurco. They are the most advanced CNC equipment UFC has purchased. The men operating them appear to be somewhat more relaxed than those who work in the NC room — although just as alert.


Machine Tool Machine Process Conventional Machine Machine Shop Computerize Numerical Control 
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  1. 6.
    Roger Tulin, A Machinist’s Semi-Automated Life (San Pedro: Singlejack Books, 1984), pp. 14–15.Google Scholar
  2. 11.
    Paul Thompson and Eddie Bannon, Working the System: The Shopfloor and New Technology (London: Pluto Press, 1985) distinguish between technical and subjective de-skilling. Technical de-skilling refers to the actual skills which are affected by mechanization. Subjective de-skilling addresses how these changes have actually been experienced by workers. According to Thompson and Bannon, those experiences will influence the patterns of conflict and resistance over technical de-skilling. They point out that there are wide variations in each category.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Lorraine Giordano 1992

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.National Center for Research in Vocational EducationUniversity of CaliforniaBerkeleyUSA

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