A 1975 Technology Forecast | M. E. Marchant | AFIPS Proceedings

“A recent Delphi-type forecast of the future of manufacturing carried out by the International Institution for Production Engineering Research (CIRP) resulted in 94 forecast events on which good consensus was obtained. Of these, 24, or over one-fourth, strongly indicated that the computer-integrated automatic factory would be a full-blown reality well before the end of this century. The three key events which summarize this aspect of that forecast are as follows:

  1. By 1980 (median), a computer software system for full automation and optimization of all steps in the manufacturing of a part will be developed and in wide use.
  2. By 1985 (median), full on-line automation and optimization of complete manufacturing plants, controlled by a central computer, will be a reality.
  3. By 1990 (median), more than 50 percent of the machine tools produced will not have a “stand-alone” use, but will be part of a versatile manufacturing system, featuring automatic part handling between stations, and being controlled from a central process computer.”

Source: ACM Digital Library

Michel Baudin‘s comments: Thanks to Torbjørn Netland for digging up this gem, which puts the current claims about Industry 4.0 in perspective.

A Delphi-type forecast is based on questionnaires sent to a panel of experts in multiple rounds. Each expert sees the aggregate results of the previous round and modifies answers to arrive at a consensus. In other words, it’s subjective group-think.

1974 Personal Computer
1974 Altair-8800 computer

Like most of science-fiction, these forecasts both overestimate technology and fail to anticipate its evolution. A “central computer ” was going to do everything.  The paper is from 1975, a year after the first personal computer came out, the Altair 8800. At that time, PLCs and minicomputers like DEC’s PDP-11s were already taking over industrial control functions from mainframes.

The author worked for a machine-tool company, Cincinnati-Milacron, and seems to equate manufacturing with metalworking. Machine tools, today, are primarily used in automotive and aerospace; it is only a fraction of manufacturing as a whole.

#automation, #CIM, #industry4.0, #technologyforecast