At the end of the 18th century, inventions such as Kay's Flying Shuttle, Hargreaves' Spinning Jenny and the power provided by Watt's Steam Engine changed the way that goods were produced. This period, now known as the Industrial Revolution, saw the start of the factory system and gave birth to mechanisation and the manufacturing industry. In 1952, the introduction of numerical control (NC) , allowed machine and cutting tools to become automated, using punched paper tapes for control. During the 1970s, computers became part of the manufacturing system, enabling fully automated production lines, robot workers and new design and testing capabilities.
This essay considers the impact that computers have had on the manufacturing sector. It explores the major changes to the manufacturing process and how these have effected conventional working practices. It also examines the advantages and disadvantages of these changes and offers a view of where the future of manufacturing might lie.
Work in the manufacturing industry is generally divided into five main sections, Management, Administration, Sales and Marketing, Production and Assembly and Design and Testing. This essay will primarily investigate the latter two sections, which are largely exclusive to manufacturing.
The introduction of computers to the production line has allowed the construction and assembly of parts to become increasingly automated. The punched paper tape used in numerical control has been replaced by computer programs controlling the work of machine tools (CNC), giving a greater accuracy and consistency of production of parts. Skilled human machinists are increasingly being replaced by CNC controlled machines and their unskilled operators. .
In addition to machine tools, other areas of the production line are becoming automated. Robots often take the place of humans previously employed for the assembly of parts and construction of the finished product.