Magazine article Management Review

Time to Update SIC - but Who Is Up to the Task

Magazine article Management Review

Time to Update SIC - but Who Is Up to the Task

Article excerpt

I pity the poor manufacturer of a somewhat new device that measures how much rubber a tire lays down on the road during use. There is no numerical industrial classification for this kind of contraption--simply because not enough of them are manufactured.

At first glance, this may not seem to be such a big deal. So what if the manufacturer can't categorize its product? But there is a compelling need for such categorization--indeed, a formal system has been in place since the 1950s--to standardize industrial production in everything from bills of lading, to trade association records to economic statistics on all levels. There must be a uniform system to track industrial output, according to conventional logic.

Trouble is, the system in place--called the U.S. Standard Industrial Classification System--is woefully inadequate, given industrial advances in the past 40 years or so. Myriad government agencies have tried to revise the system over the years, with little success. The main drawbacks are cost and the fact that there would have to be double reporting in both the old and the new systems for awhile until the new one could be completely operational. The bureaucracies, sensing more work, have balked at the idea thus far.

Enter the Census Bureau. Last November, it sponsored an international conference under the direction of Charles Waite, the bureau's associate director for economic statistics, and it looks like the gargantuan task is making headway. …

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