Computing Steel

״While the global auto industry is quickly re-engineering its operations and investing in new labor-displacing information technologies, related industries are doing the same, eliminating more and more jobs in the process.

The steel industry’s fortunes are so closely linked to those of the automotive industry that it is not surprising to see the same sweeping changes in organization and production taking place in steel as are occurring in the car business. The steel industry is the heart and soul of industrial power The great steel mills of England, Germany, and the United States provided the material infrastructure for the modem industrial economy. Giant blast furnaces in industrial towns like Sheffield, Essen, and Pittsburgh converted massive amounts of iron ore into smooth rolled steel that was used to make rails, build frames for locomotives and later automobiles, cast girders for giant skyscrapers and factories and, in the United States, roll barbed wire to fence the great plains of the Western range.״

״By the 1890s the United States was the leader in steel production. Andrew Carnegies furnaces, the largest in the world, were producing 2,000 tons per week. At the turn of the century, a modern American rolling mill was producing as much steel in a day as a midcentury mill produced in a year Steel was king of the smokestack industries and the price of entry for every country that desired to become part of the industrial club. America enjoyed pre-eminence in steel production by dint of its superior technologies and organizational methods and its access to cheap raw materials and continent-wide markets. Today, that competitive edge has been seriously eroded, in large part because of the failure of U.S. companies to keep up with the new technologies of the information revolution that have remade the steel industry.

Authors Martin Kenney and Richard Florida contrast two very different steel factories located within an hour of each other in America’s rust belt. The first is a sprawling complex of old rusted buildings and sheds housing hundreds of workers toiling in near-Dickensian״

״conditions. Caked with grease and grime, they tend aged steel furnaces, transforming molten metal into steel slabs. The muddied floors are cluttered with rusted-out parts, abandoned tools, and chemical containers. The noise is deafening. The steel is moved by overhead chains across the cavernous factory, as supervisors shout commands to each other, often amidst the confused coming and going of material and men. Outside the factory, broken-down machines and trucks are visible and piles of rusted steel slabs and coils litter the property.

The second mill is a gleaming white structure that looks more like a laboratory than a factory. Inside are brighdy colored machines turning out sheets of steel. In the center of the factory is a glass-enclosed booth full of computer and electronic equipment. Workers in clean, crisp uniforms program and monitor the computers that oversee and control the production process. None of the men handle the steel directly. The process itself is nearly fully automated and produces cold rolled steel in less than one hour The same process in an older integrated steel mill used to take as much as twelve days.״

״The computerized mill belongs to Nippon Steel, which, along with other Japanese steel manufacturers like Kawasaki, Sumitomo, and Kobe, are opening up plants in the United States, some in partnership with American steel companies. The new high-technology mills have successfully transformed steelmaking from a batch process to a highly automated continuous operation by combining formerly separated procedures into a single operation that is similar to the production of rolls of paper in a paper factory. ^^

In the traditional cold-rolling process, thick steel coils are taken through a number of discrete steps and transformed into thinner sheet steel for use in automobiles, refrigerators, washing machines, and other household appliances. First, the steel coils are taken to a machine that scrapes the rust and oxidation off the surface.״

״Then the steel is carried to another machine that bathes it in a chemical solution to complete the cleaning process. From there, the steel is taken to a machine for drying, after which it is sent to still another machine for pressing to the desired thickness. Finally, the steel is cut and pre-pared.^^

Nippon and other Japanese steel producers have collapsed all of these discrete stages into a uniform flow and in so doing revolutionized steelmaking. They began by combining the entry and scraping processes. They then combined the cleaning and drying processes. Computer controls were added to automate production. Nippon’s new

$400 million cold rolling mill near Gary, Indiana—a joint venture with Inland Steel—is run by a small team of technicians. By reducing production time from twelve days to one hour at the new automated facility, Inland s management was able to significantly reduce its workforce, closing down two older mills and laying off hundreds of workers.^״

״Employment in the steel industry has also been dramatically affected by the introduction of mini-mills. These new computerized, highly automated factories use electric arc furnaces to convert scrap steel into wire rods and bar products. Much cheaper to operate than integrated steel mills, the new mini-mills are already producing one third of all the steel in the United States. The high-tech workforce in the mini-mills is few in number and skilled in chemistry, metallurgy, and computer programming. With its computerized manufacturing process, the mini-mill can produce a ton of steel with less than one twelfth the human labor of a giant integrated steel mill.״

״The increasing automation of steel production has left thousands of blue collar workers jobless. In 1980 United States Steel, the largest integrated steel company in the United States, employed 120,000 workers. By 1990 it was producing roughly the same output using only 20,000.^^ These numbers are projected to fall even further in die next ten to twenty years as new, even more advanced, computerized operations are introduced into the manufacturing process.

The new, highly automated manufacturing methods are being combined with radical restructuring of the management hierarchy to bring steelmaking into the era of lean production. Job classifications in the steel industry have become so complex and labyrinthine over the years that even those responsible for overseeing the process aren’t exacdy sure how many separate categories and demarcations exist.״

״In some companies there are between 300 and 400 different job classifications. Japanese companies, with joint ventures in United States, have re-engineered traditional plant operations and slashed job classifications in the process. At the LTV-Sumitomo plant, the job categories have been reduced from one hundred to three. The new classifications are “entry-level,” “intermediate,” and “advanced.”^”^ Workers have been taken off hourly wages and put on salaries. New self-managing work teams have been given greater control over the shop floor, significantly reducing the number of managers on the payroll. Management hierarchies have also been flattened. Inland Steel has reduced its management layers from ten to six.^^ The same re-engineering process is at work in steel plants around the world.״

״According to the International Labor Organization, finished steel output from 1974 to 1989 dropped only 6 percent in the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) countries while employment fell by more than 50 percent More than one million jobs were lost in the steel industry in OECD nations during this fifteen-year period. “In up to 90 percent of the cases,” says the ILO, “the basic explanation for the reduction in employment is therefore not changes in the level of output but improvement in productivity״

״Other industries that use steel to make products are also undergoing a fundamental overhaul, reflecting the new emphasis on lean-production practices. The metalworking-machinery industry is a good case in point. Just three decades ago the International Association of Machinists posted a sign over the front door of their unions headquarters in Washington, DC, saying one million strong. Over the subsequent years the sign remained, while the number of machinists in the country dwindled to less than 600,000.^”

William Winpisinger, the former president of the lAM, catalogues the many revolutionary changes in materials and technologies that have shrunk the ranks of skilled machinists around the world. He cites the example of bars of raw steel that have traditionally been cut, ground, deburred, and polished by expert machinists to make components for aircraft engines.״

״Today, powderized metals are merely poured from bags—like cement mix—into pressurized molds which shape the component parts. In some instances lightweight ceramics and plastics are substituted for powderized metals and put through the same mold process.^^ Making precision-made parts from molds and casts has eliminated the jobs of thousands of skilled machinists.

The metalworking-machinery industry encompasses a range of subindustries including metal-forming machine tools, rolling-mill machinery, welding apparatus, metal-cutting machine tools, special dies, jigs, and fixtures.^^ In all of these industries computerized, numerically controlled machine tools; computer-aided design, manufacturing and engineering systems; flexible manufacturing cells; and automated sensor-based inspection equipment have reduced the need for skilled machinists. Winpisinger says that while we shouldn’t “stand in the way of advances which make work easier … we have to prepare to take care of those workers who may be displaced by the new technology.״

״Between 1979 and 1990, employment in the metalworking industry declined by an average annual rate of 1.7 percent. The Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts an overall loss of an additional 14,000

workers by the year 2005. For operators, fabricators, and laborers the decHne in employment is expected to be even higher, reaching 14 percent between now and the first decade of the coming century.^^ In countries such as Germany, where skilled machinists are a national treasure and much revered for their expert craftsmanship, the new automated processes are likely to have a powerful psychological as well as economic impact on the national economy.״

ציטוט מתוך: Jeremy‏, Rifkin. ״The end of work : the decline of the global labor force and the dawn of the post-market era.״ New York : G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 1995. iBooks.
‫יתכן שחומר זה מוגן על-ידי זכויות יוצרים.‬

ציטוט מתוך: Jeremy‏, Rifkin. ״The end of work : the decline of the global labor force and the dawn of the post-market era.״ New York : G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 1995. iBooks.
‫יתכן שחומר זה מוגן על-ידי זכויות יוצרים.‬

ציטוט מתוך: Jeremy‏, Rifkin. ״The end of work : the decline of the global labor force and the dawn of the post-market era.״ New York : G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 1995. iBooks.
‫יתכן שחומר זה מוגן על-ידי זכויות יוצרים.‬

ציטוט מתוך: Jeremy‏, Rifkin. ״The end of work : the decline of the global labor force and the dawn of the post-market era.״ New York : G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 1995. iBooks.
‫יתכן שחומר זה מוגן על-ידי זכויות יוצרים.‬

ציטוט מתוך: Jeremy‏, Rifkin. ״The end of work : the decline of the global labor force and the dawn of the post-market era.״ New York : G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 1995. iBooks.
‫יתכן שחומר זה מוגן על-ידי זכויות יוצרים.‬

ציטוט מתוך: Jeremy‏, Rifkin. ״The end of work : the decline of the global labor force and the dawn of the post-market era.״ New York : G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 1995. iBooks.
‫יתכן שחומר זה מוגן על-ידי זכויות יוצרים.‬

ציטוט מתוך: Jeremy‏, Rifkin. ״The end of work : the decline of the global labor force and the dawn of the post-market era.״ New York : G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 1995. iBooks.
‫יתכן שחומר זה מוגן על-ידי זכויות יוצרים.‬

ציטוט מתוך: Jeremy‏, Rifkin. ״The end of work : the decline of the global labor force and the dawn of the post-market era.״ New York : G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 1995. iBooks.
‫יתכן שחומר זה מוגן על-ידי זכויות יוצרים.‬

ציטוט מתוך: Jeremy‏, Rifkin. ״The end of work : the decline of the global labor force and the dawn of the post-market era.״ New York : G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 1995. iBooks.
‫יתכן שחומר זה מוגן על-ידי זכויות יוצרים.‬

ציטוט מתוך: Jeremy‏, Rifkin. ״The end of work : the decline of the global labor force and the dawn of the post-market era.״ New York : G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 1995. iBooks.
‫יתכן שחומר זה מוגן על-ידי זכויות יוצרים.‬

ציטוט מתוך: Jeremy‏, Rifkin. ״The end of work : the decline of the global labor force and the dawn of the post-market era.״ New York : G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 1995. iBooks.
‫יתכן שחומר זה מוגן על-ידי זכויות יוצרים.‬

ציטוט מתוך: Jeremy‏, Rifkin. ״The end of work : the decline of the global labor force and the dawn of the post-market era.״ New York : G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 1995. iBooks.
‫יתכן שחומר זה מוגן על-ידי זכויות יוצרים.‬

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