Summary and Info
In Forces of Production: A Social History of Industrial Automation (1984) Noble recounts the history of machine tool automation in the United States. He argues that CNC (computerized numerical control) machines were introduced both to increase efficiency and to discipline unions which were stronger in the USA in the period immediately following World War II. Forces of Production argues that management wanted to take the programming of machine tools, which as "machines for making machines" are a critical industrial product, out of the hands of union members and transfer their control, by means of primitive programming, to non-union, college-educated white-collar employees working physically separate from the shop floor. Noble's research argues that, in practical terms, the separation was a failure. The practice angered and alienated union machinists, who felt that their practical and night-school knowledge of applied science was being disregarded. In response, they sat back while watching the programmed machines produce what Noble described as "scrap at high speed." Noble then went on to argue that management compromised with the unions, in a minor violation of the USA's 1948 Taft-Hartley Act (which reserved all issues except pay and benefits to management discretion), to allow the union men to "patch" and even write the CNC programs. Although Noble focuses strictly, in Forces of Production, on the narrow and specialist area of machine tools, his work may be generalized to issues in MIS software where the end users are restive when told to accept the product of analysts ignorant of the real needs of the business or the employee.
More About the Author
David Franklin Noble (July 22, 1945 – December 27, 2010) was a critical historian of technology, science and education, best known for his seminal work on the social history of automation.