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Managing automation: A study of the adoption, implementation, and evaluation of advanced manufacturing technology

J. R McDaniel, University of Massachusetts Amherst


Over the past decade, the declining competitiveness of U.S. manufacturers has received considerable attention. Studies have documented the weakening competitive position in global markets, the decline of the manufacturing base, and the continued closing of manufacturing plants in the United States. Attention has focused on manufacturing strategy and technological innovation in manufacturing as possible solutions to these growing problems. Adoption and implementation of new manufacturing technologies, known collectively as advanced manufacturing technology (AMT), offer the promise of successfully competing in global markets. Specifically, these technologies offer advantages in areas that U.S. manufacturers need to address: flexibility, quality, shorter product life cycles, and decreased product development cycles. However, there are two major concerns: (1) American manufacturers have been slow to adopt advanced process technology, and (2) those firms which have decided to adopt these new technologies, have had limited success in implementing them. Management has limited experience with AMT and few guidelines to assist them in the transition from the factory of today to the factory of the future. This research provides an in-depth, integrative approach to address these issues by focusing on the experiences of organizations pursuing a strategy of automation. Using a multiple case research strategy, this exploratory study investigates the reasons why firms chose to adopt advanced manufacturing technologies and the decision making process involved in justifying them. In addition, this study identifies obstacles to justification and provides insight into how firms have either ignored or overcome these obstacles. The decision to adopt AMT is only the first step in becoming or remaining competitive. These technologies need to be successfully implemented to achieve proposed benefits. This research provides insight into how firms managed their AMT implementations and what obstacles were encountered. In addition, factors that contribute to or impede the successful implementation of advanced manufacturing technologies are identified. Finally, the difficulties of performing post-implementation evaluations by these firms are examined. Results from this study corroborate earlier findings that comprehension retrospective evaluations of AMT projects are rarely performed. Guidelines are presented to assist management grappling with these complex issues. Finally, this study suggests propositions for future research.

Subject Area

Management|Business community

Recommended Citation

McDaniel, J. R, "Managing automation: A study of the adoption, implementation, and evaluation of advanced manufacturing technology" (1989). Doctoral Dissertations Available from Proquest. AAI9001537.