William A. Faunce
Few developments in American industry have ever attracted as much attention as has automation. There have been congressional hearings, hundreds of conferences, and thousands of newspaper and magazine articles dealing with the possible consequences of automation for American society. This concern has not yet, however, manifested itself in a comprehensive program of research designed to discover what the effects of automation may actually be. To the extent that social scientists have become concerned with the problem at all, their attention has been focused primarily upon the possibility of technological displacement of workers and its attendant problems. The question of individual and organizational adjustments to the changes in production techniques has received much less attention. This paper is not concerned with the problems of workers who have lost their jobs as a result of automation but with the adjustment problems of what is currently a much larger group of workers: those who are still working but who have recently experienced the changes in their jobs resulting from the introduction of automated machinery.1 . . .
Perhaps the most important change which has occurred in the job of the machine operator on automated production lines is the reduction in the amount of materials handling required. In the old, nonautomated plants of the company, over 80 per cent of machine operator jobs involved some handling of materials. In the new plant only 44 per cent of the workers reported that their job involved materials handling. A majority of this 44 per cent were workers in departments where smaller parts were machined and, in many instances, automatic loaders were added to the transfer machinery so that the materials handling involved only the feeding of small parts into a loader. Even for those workers whose jobs still involved some materials handling, automation has considerably changed job content. For those workers in departments where no materials handling was involved, this aspect of the change represented an even more substantial difference from the old jobs where, in many instances, it was necessary to handle crankshafts, cylinder blocks, or other heavy engine parts.