Alienation. Computerization. Employment. Mass-production. These are some of the words associated with the introduction of computers into the work environment, mainly beginning on a large scale basis in 1970 and continuing on to the present day and beyond. Between the 1970"s and 1990"s, the work environment was impacted significantly. This initial development of computers for use in industry and business played an important role in the development of businesses. New jobs have been created to deal with computers.
Mundane, repetitive jobs have been taken over by computers. The computer has even been introduced to the management level of businesses to assist in decision making. All around the office, computers have become commonplace (Spencer 107). But what were these industries like before computers came to their assistance? Obviously, commerce functioned prior to the introduction of computers. However, employees were required to perform many tasks that automation eventually made easier.
These tasks have predominantly consisted of clerical operations, such as check processing, payroll, inventory control, bookkeeping, etc. However, automation lso included other tasks at the industrial and management level such as business planning, marketing reports and sales reports. Most of these tasks were performed using pencil and paper, or in some cases, the typewriter, and every record or other document was stored by means of some filing method such as filing cabinets or book shelves.
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Other tasks, such as those involving the manipulation of machinery were done by hand. If a machine had to be assembled, it was assembled using "mostly-human" assembly lines. Machines were not around to assist in handling substances; substance manipulation and ata reception from chemicals was also dealt with by hand (Stern and Stern 238). In essence, many tasks that were dealt with by hand were either repetitive, dangerous, or both. As one might speculate, problems then arose from the methods of handling these tasks.
Every task was subject to some type of human error, whether it was a mistake in adding, a misspelling of a name or organization, the improper filing of a certain document, etc. At times, employees were simply not able to process the volume of data coming into their workplaces. This caused companies to get behind in their operations nd records, which in turn yielded a loss in revenue. Many companies fell behind in this way because of the manual system"s inability to accommodate for the growth of the industry.
In turn, this affected the management departments of businesses, which relied upon up-to-date information from their employees in order for them to make decisions on time (239). Also, workers accidentally injured themselves in some of the dangerous work environments involving machinery and volatile chemicals, because many of the employees were required to work very near to machinery or toxic chemicals, and were ot given much protection from the hazards created by the noxious vapors rising from chemicals or malfunctions in machinery.
An answer to these problems needed to be Perhaps that answer lied in computers. They provided the solutions businesses and industries needed to handle repetitive and dangerous jobs. Computers were able to assist clerks in their operations. Injuries could be reduced that were caused by accidents with chemicals or machinery (237). These solutions impacted the employment aspect of industry by making jobs become safer and less repetitive. Employees began to be hired to erform different tasks as a result of the change in the tasks to be performed (de Ferranti 70).
Employees began to become involved with computers in business in order to satisfy several objectives. Systems were installed for employees to assist in the reduction of record-keeping by automating most of the functions performed by the clerks. Files were automatically inserted in their proper order, and could be recovered from the computer"s memory and reviewed almost instantaneously. Also, inputting the information into the computer and allowing it to perform certain operations such as adding and sorting esulted in the reduction of errors in record-keeping operations.
Computers also assisted the management of a company by providing managers or executives with up-to-date information used for decision making (Stern and Stern 237). Computers provided employees with a way to more quickly and accurately process larger volumes of business data, thus being beneficial to the company as a whole by allowing them to operate more The types of business data that many of these employees had to process include all the information received by a company.
When these data are processed, their information s outputted, and is needed by the managers of the business. The managers, using these data, then establish, evaluate, and adjust the goals of the business, develop plans and standards and initiate the actions needed to accomplish them, and measure the actual performance of the company and take appropriate action when it is needed to improve the company"s performance. All of these tasks are essential to the function of any business, and the business data from them was processed using a number of steps (Dorf 135-136).
First, the data must be separated into their appropriate classification. Second, the data must be sorted into a pre-arranged sequence designated by the manager or some other employee involved in the sorting process. Third, any mathematical operations that must be performed on the data are carried out. Finally, the data is summarized for use in reports. After the data has been summarized, it is stored for future use or retrieved. Sometimes the data need to be duplicated for documents or communicated to an employee (136).
These employees needed to process many different types of these data. Some of these types included account reception, which involved the processing of records nvolving the reception money owed to the company by others; account payment, which handled the processing of the money that the company owed to others; payroll, which dealt with the records of employees to be paid, the pay rates of the employees, the hours that the employees worked, etc. inventory control, which encompassed the holding of records of goods on hand, the quantities of the items to be ordered by the company, and the records of the items that the company had currently run out of in stock; and marketing and sales, which determined from sales statistics the best combination of products to sell or a maximum profit for the company. It was important that each of these types was properly processed, and the computer allowed employees to more easily process this wide variety of data that was generated (Stern and Stern 238).
Because employees were more easily able to manipulate the business data they received, the automation of these processes in the office allowed for greater efficiency. Clerks were no longer obligated to file documents using filing cabinets or shelves. Instead, they recorded and stored the information inside of the memory of a computer. Also, clerks could use word processing systems to minimize the need to retype erroneous pages, create standardized letter heads, and maintain letters in files containing text, providing a tremendous advantage over the use of the typewriter, which did not allow for any of these options.
Sometimes letter heads did not even need to be printed; primitive office e-mail developed in the 1970"s allowed for the quicker transmission of information to branch offices without the cost of postage or postal services and was also faster. Sending information to companies through the postal system took days while the ransmission of data with e-mail took mere seconds or minutes. By giving branch offices information more quickly, businesses enabled themselves to increase their production, because they did not need to wait to receive information or reports from other offices or departments that was being sent through the mail (251-253).
This increase in production that resulted from the computer allowed for a big step in the direction of maximum efficiency for a businesses. The great efficiency potential of computers shone the brightest when their rapid speed was used to perform repetitious tasks handling these large amounts of data (Dorf 137). Handling large amounts of data allowed companies to better interact with one another, because they allowed companies to get more recent information on the production and financial well-being of their competitors.
The estimated increase in the amount of business transactions between companies and people per year during the 1970"s was 8 to 15 percent. The mass of data transmitted through lines was growing by a rate of 25 percent. Because the mass of data received by companies was growing, it was necessary to use computers to capitalize on Partly contributing to the increase in data was the improvements made in the ediums in which data was transmitted.
As well as needing accurate and up-to-date information, business managements needed information that was also easier to read and comprehend. In order for information to be reviewed more efficiently and more comprehensively, graphics systems were developed to improve the readability of the information. The development of graphics in business data began in the early 1970"s with text-drawn images of bar graphs and simple charts. The computer was utilized to create these graphs because it could prepare them quickly by immediately calling upon the data within its memory.
Later, graphical input/output devices were developed to display and manipulate this data directly to some type of screen. The graphical information display monitor was (and still remains) the most effective method of presenting information to users. Clear and understandable information, as well as fast, accurate, and up-to-date information, is essential for the success of the management in The introduction of computers into the management environment naturally changed it as well.
The managers of businesses altered their techniques in order to accommodate for the changes in industry and business brought on by the computer and apitalize on the benefits. These techniques changed in several ways. For instance, executives were put into closer contact with the activities that they controlled. This was because the computer enabled them to access facts from databases, immediately giving them information on the status of the department they oversaw. In some situations, the computer even allowed executives to give instructions more quickly directly to their subordinates.
Also, management was affected in each of its 3 sublevels: low, middle, and top. Low management was provided with all the facts essential to the activities of the usiness such as awareness of employee activities, the availability of materials, work flow, and details about their field. Middle management was involved with the progress of the work under its control. Top management concerned itself with summarized reports and analyses that were free of the details used by middle management.
By being able to process data more quickly and accurately, the computer could be used to send the appropriate information to its corresponding level more quickly, sifting through the facts and details in the business data, and discarding useless information for each level of By being able to manage data on each level more efficiently, the life of the manager was made easier by computers. Computers assisted the manager in several other processes besides error reduction and data handling. The speed at which computers work helped managers deal with time management in business.
In reducing the cost for an item so that more items will be bought by the consumer, the production time should also be reduced and the efficiency of computers allowed for businesses to become cost-efficient. Besides being cost efficient where production is concerned, computers also reduce the eed for a clerical workforce. Clerical tasks, which tended to be more mundane, could be performed by computers. Clerical employee costs for the business could then be reduced, but this resulted in layoffs and alienation amongst employees.
This rapid, low-cost, low-error business that computers assisted managers in running became the fuel for employees" fears about computers (Dorf 136). These fears were one of the problems produced by computers. However, in addition to some of the problems it created, it also revealed new solutions. One problem actually results from the faster rate at which computers process data. Because they process data faster, any mistakes made due to incorrect programming will be much larger since more information will have been processed incorrectly.
Any manager must plan alternatives to their computerized methods just to accommodate for unexpected errors produced by unique data streaming through the computer. At many times, "bugs" in programs may not be realized until a certain unique type of data is entered and processed, and because of the large mass of data processed by the computer in businesses on a daily basis, it is only a matter of time until these hidden bugs are revealed. Even though their are some negative repercussions to using computers, businesses are made more flexible by computers because they are multi-functional and can be used to perform more than one task.
Computers also allow for the establishment of control over manufacturing by allowing the management to more directly observe the function of the business by reviewing the data the computer returns about the status of the business (155-156). These examples illustrate how the computer"s impact cannot only be positive, but negative also. In order to capitalize on the positive aspects, an important factor in effective anagement with computers is detailed planning. Proper planning can allow for the smarter choosing of workers, the right amount of materials, etc.
Computers can help planners optimize schedules by choosing the best employees for a type of job from an index. Computerized information storage and retrieval systems are capable of storing vast amounts of data in a centralized data bank that can be accessed from miles away. This allows access to the data from anywhere, letting business managements stationed in different branches of a company in different locations have access to the same data bank s the rest of the company.
Because information does not have to physically be transferred from one place to another, planning can take place faster and with greater In addition to being most effective with proper planning, computers are used most effectively within a business of any moderate size or larger, and are most successful in business data processing operations possessing one of the following characteristics: when the business receives a large volume of data generated from transactions on a regular basis, when an operation is repeated many times in order to make investments in ebugging, development, and improvement worth the financial expenditure to have software updated, when the business has a need for information quickly; and when the business has a need for reliable and accurate results. However, the success of computers in a business is more dependent on the effectiveness of the management rather than on the actual hardware capabilities.
Computers can be a useful tool for managements to control and guide businesses, but they must be used properly and to their fullest capabilities to ensure the success of the business to make them worth the investment. This investment can only be capitalized on when computers are used to their full ability. The gap between computers" capabilities and the actual use of those capabilities has been increasing since computers became more prominent in businesses in the 1970"s and the 1980"s. Computers often were used for very simplistic tasks such as simple arithmetic, despite the fact that they possessed the capabilities to perform more complex tasks such as controlling manufacturing operations, optimizing the transportation of products, and improving the quality of managerial decisions (144).
In many cases, omputers have not reduced the cost of operations in a company, but have rather simply provided better data processing and better service. Basically, a simple principle can be seen in the use of the computer for business tasks: if the functions of the computer are used poorly, the company may actually incur financial losses. However, if the functions of the computer are used to their full potential efficiently and effectively, the financial return will definitely be positive. (145). Several general businesses have experienced positive financial return as a result of the utilization of computers. One of these businesses is banking.
Between 1940 and 1970, the volume of check transactions in banks has increased 1100 percent, which is an unbelievably large mass of data to be processed. Normally, this would be the archetypal work of a bank clerk; however, because of the introduction of the computer, this immense volume can be handled with relative ease by allowing banks to process checks faster and more cost-efficiently because the computer is able to record, compute, and edit the balances of myriad"s of accounts in seconds by calling upon them in its memory (Spencer 107). When one went to the bank to process a check, his or her checks were utomatically processed then credited to or drawn against the individual"s bank accounts in hours instead of days or weeks.
This made it possible for large banks to process millions of items per day. Now, the use of computers for the day-to-day processing of customer accounts and checks has become routine (107). Another use for the processing power of computers was in the stock market, where an immense volume of trading occurs daily. This large mass of trading creates an equally large mass of paperwork. In the 1970"s, sometimes the trading needed to be halted to allow brokers to catch up with their aperwork. Every broker had to figure every transaction the day before they had to open again for business. Naturally, because they had to act quickly, brokers would also make errors.
The introduction of the computer into their domain allowed brokers to process millions of accounts daily and remain in business. Also, bookkeeping errors are always avoided with the computer (provided that the data was inputted correctly by the user), and information was even posted faster (109). Without the assistance of computers, stock transactions would not be able to occur at the rates they do today. Payrolls in business ere also significantly affected by computers. Computers could generate pay reports to handle the employees of a large corporation. Because payroll involves many functions repetitively, such as earning rates, tax withholdings, net pay, year to date quantities, pay deductions, union dues, etc. it becomes a task very suitable to a computer"s purpose; it eliminates the time-consuming and tedious review of employee files and records (115).
Factories and manufacturing industries did not escape the positive and negative influences of the computer either. It was predicted that computers would bring about a quiet revolution" in industry. In 1970, it was estimated that 5 percent of the GNP was produced by some means of computing. Despite this figure, many companies did not totally opt for computer systems. Instead, they employed the assistance of agencies called bureaus, "largely providing for managements who have opted out of computing (de Ferranti 65-66). " Bureaus were companies that specialized in the management of business using the computer.
Instead of actually purchasing a computer, the management of a company could employ the services of the bureaus, which would assist them in the anagement of their companies the use of the computers the bureau used. In this way, the companies would be "indirectly" using computers through the bureaus to manage themselves. It was thought that the bureaus would grow more quickly than the industries they supported as a result of the large profit they received for their services. This was proven true in England, where the amount of computers purchased by 1980 was only 6 times what it had been in 1965, while the bureaus grew by a rate of 30 times. However because bureaus were very sparse in the United States, the number of computers in ndustry expanded partly as a result of them not having to invest in the services of the bureaus.
Industries tended to invest in their own computer systems in order provide their management with direct control over the industry"s employees and production (66). These industries bought several types of computers in the 1980"s, useful for various tasks. One type of machine was the Turnkey System, which was a hardware and software package that was designed to perform one specific task. As the name implies, the user "turns a key" and the machine operates automatically. The advantage to this ystem is that it may be used without any computer expertise. The disadvantage, a rather obvious problem, is that the machine can be used to perform only one task, the task that it was written to do.
The other type of computer was the special-purpose computer, which could be programmed to perform a variety of tasks. The advantage to using this system is that it is versatile and can perform different tasks. However, the drawback is that computer expertise is required to operate and change the tasks of the system (Stern and Stern 262). Another type of computer system was Computer Aided Design (CAD). CAD onsisted of a system that was equipped with CAD software that could be used for the design, development, and testing of any type of equipment. It could also handle fine details in drawing, and makes use of the computer"s ability to measure to very small units.
CAD allowed engineers of systems to do stress analyses, weight analyses, and structural analyses to be simulated on a model construction that appeared on the computer monitor. In essence, engineers could test something"s design before it was built to determine design flaws and save on cost (263). With a small variety of computerized systems to use, manufacturing also mployed the computer in its operations. In the 1980"s, 20 percent of all computers were being used for manufacturing purposes. Twenty-billion dollars were spent on computers for manufacturing. The ultimate goal of automating the factory was to, as always, maximize efficiency and minimize the need for operator intervention (254). In fact, computers controlled several activities manufacturing.
One such activity was called process control, which used computers to process the continuous flow of materials in a system such as in the production of chemicals in a chemical plant or oil in a refinery. The omputers were involved in measuring and regulating the flow of the fluid into the tank, the pressure in the tank, the temperature in the tank, etc. As the system monitored the tank, it would inform the user of problems and sometimes would attempt to fix the problems on its own (254). The reason computers were used in process control was because computers had the ability to operate and take data samples efficiently and for an infinite time period (until the machine eventually broke down years later). Also, while it was gathering data, the computer could monitor the levels of material and its attributes all the time to maximize safety.
Sometimes process control systems were controlled with feedback mechanisms, which allowed them to evaluate and correct their own efficiency by adjusting their operation to meet certain criteria of efficiency (255). Another type of activity performed by computers in manufacturing was production control, where computers monitored, controlled, and scheduled assembly lines. In this situation, the computer was used to monitor the time spent on certain activities at given stations, specify the status of the products and tools needed for them, indicate any faulty equipment, and alert supervisors of timing problems that tend to form ueues at each station.
Because computers are inanimate machines, they could be relied upon to supervise an assembly line indefinitely, which was one of the main advantages for using computers along the assembly lines. As well as having "infinite patience," computers also could perform a repeated task identically, because the exact movements it was to follow were programmed into it, and unless another operator altered these instructions, it would not deviate from them. A good example of this uniformity resulting from computer use is in the use of it to monitor and control robots in car manufacturing Computers in manufacturing yielded many benefits to companies, both tangible, and intangible.
The tangible benefits included faster processing, greater accuracy, flexibility in design modifications, independent machinery which could be run unchecked for some time, cost reduction, larger output, and an increased uniformity in the products produced because each was produced using the same abstract programmed into the computer which performed the task the same way every time (260-261).
The intangible benefits included better quality control, more effective scheduling of shipments, simpler lanning requirements because the machines functioned the same way every time they were run, need for a reduced inventory, and increased job satisfaction, because the workers were free to work in less mundane positions. Workers with tedious or monotonous jobs often had little incentive to work and this therefore impacted production.
However, when the computer was introduced, the workers could be put to use in more interesting tasks that did not always require repetitive work. However, some factory managements were striving for the ideal goal of manufacturing: to create the automated factory" where computers would handle every step in the manufacturing process (261-262) and would be maintenanced only occasionally by manufacturing supervisors. This goal would certainly increase revenue for the company, however, it would also increase unemployment and poverty throughout the country, so it would be a very unrealistic possibility that factories will ever become fully automated.
The use of computers in business and industry increased dramatically over the period between 1970 and 1980, where it was estimated that every businessman was involved with computers and their techniques in one way or another. Such businessmen were called "New Businessmen" because they were involved with the new field of computers, and every new businessman needed at least a basic knowledge of the computer for employment. In the mid 1970"s, the total number of terminals installed in businesses and industry was estimated to be greater than 7000. The amount of terminals explicitly used for business exceeded 250,000 by 1980 (de Ferranti 70). The government use of computers surpassed businesses" use of computers however, and was operating 20,000 machines in 1970, which means they were using 3 times the machines that the people were using at that time (70-71).
In 1974, the Wall Street Journal conducted a survey on the computer use in businesses, surveying their subscribers. Two-thirds of the surveyed group said that their companies owned at least 1 computer. Ninety percent of the large companies surveyed owned a computer, and 73 percent of companies employing less than 100 people owned a computer. The leading applications used by the companies were; accounting, with 76 percent; sales analysis, with 46 percent; and inventory control, with 43 percent. Clearly the nation"s economy, as a result of the investment for computers and the use of them in industry, had been affected (Dorf 137). Even in 1970, businesses were connected to online systems that allowed them to transfer data to other companies.
The ways of accessing online services were increasing at that time, and allowed information to be inputted into one computer and sent to others in the area quickly (de Ferranti 67-68). Cable connections were used to connect systems to local branch companies to allow for quick information transmission. By 1980, the connection speed of a computer was one-third of the time it used to take in the 1970s. This increase in connection speed led to the use of businesses spending more hours online ransmitting data. This was a big increase from the time users in plants used to spend on the phone with other companies -- 6 minutes. This also increased a company"s expenditure on phone line connections.
In house machines also enabled the "New Businessmen" to transmit work to terminals in their homes and back to manipulate the information they need without having to physically transport it (70). However, none of these achievements in computers was without some cost by the United States and its population. In 1970, $25. 5 billion were spent to utilize computers for all purposes. In 1975, $51. billion were spent for the same purpose, which was a triple of what the expenditures were 10 years before. About $8. 3 billion of the $25. 5 billion spent in 1970 was spent on equipment. Managements often began purchasing computer power as if it were a utility like natural gas or electricity. However, the revenues generated by the installations of these systems most likely offset the actual cost for the systems (Dorf 137).
In essence, the machines paid for themselves by allowing the company to increase its efficiency and increase its overall revenue. And what about the common working man? Computers were generally a benefit o the working man or trained employee because they provided better jobs . However, one-fourth of the computer jobs were left to computer specialists in the 1970"s. Another effect of computers on workers in the 1980"s was alienation. Alienation was a term used to describe those people who were directly affected by automation in jobs or in everyday life. Computers created a feeling of displacement and dissatisfaction in them, and felt that computers would take the place of human labor and activities.
A survey in the 1980"s revealed that almost 50 out of the 1513 people surveyed felt alienated. When omputers began to replace the jobs of some men, they lost pride in themselves. They felt that they were being told that their jobs were too menial and worthless after being told that computer would be performing them. Many workers were affected emotionally because they felt that they had become inferior to computers (Stern and Stern 266). Employers had to be take steps to quell the discomfort felt by some workers over the introduction of the computer into their lives. And steps were taken to prevent alienation in the workplace. A famous experiment conducted by Elton Mayo and Fritz J.
Roethlisberger at the Western Electric Co. in Hawthorne, NJ, from 1927-1932 called the Hawthorne Experiment accidentally revealed a method of preventing alienation. Mayo and Roethlisberger were studying what balance of physical conditions, labor, and coffee breaks would maximize productivity. However, regardless of the ways they changed the physical conditions, the productivity rose. Upon investigating by interviewing the workers, they were told by the workers that they were flattered that anyone would take notice of them and wish to do an experiment that would benefit them, so they felt as if they should work their best (267). Thus, they disco
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