Automation of Industry

January 5, 1955

Report Outline
Automatic Control of Machines and Plants
Evolution and Potentialities of Automation
Economic and Social Effects of Automation

Automatic Control of Machines and Plants

Sharp Acceleration of Trend Toward Automation

Excitement in industrial circles over the potentialities of automation—a word so new that it is not to be found in most dictionaries—is beginning to spill over to the general public. Installation by an increasing number of enterprises of automatic processes and automatic controls of startling capacities has engendered widespread publicity about human machines and robot factories. It has led also to widespread speculation on the social and economic consequences of extensive use of the labor-saving and time-saving devices which are involved in the development called “automation.”

The accelerating trend toward automation has prompted talk of a second industrial revolution. The first industrial revolution, it has been pointed out, replaced manual labor by machines; the second will replace manual control by machine control. The new industrial revolution will turn over to instruments tasks that formerly had to be performed by the human mind, just as the first industrial revolution relieved the human body of certain physical tasks. Whereas the first revolution mechanized manufacturing processes, the second will make them automatic.

At the heart of the second industrial revolution lies man's “ability to create machines that can perform the functions of control and data processing—as well as the heavy labor of our society.”. It is the ability to build such machines—plus the economic and technical incentives to automate industrial operations—that has speeded the trend toward automation. The extent of the spread in utilization of automatic control equipment is evidenced by the fact that, according to a survey last summer by Automatic Control magazine, sales of such equipment rose from a value of around $1 billion in 1949 to an estimated $3 billion in 1954.

ISSUE TRACKER for Related Reports
Automation of Industry
Oct. 23, 1963  Cushioning of Automation
Jun. 03, 1959  Automation and Jobs
Jan. 05, 1955  Automation of Industry