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From Art to Science in Manufacturing:  The Evolution of Technological Knowledge

From Art to Science in Manufacturing: The Evolution of Technological Knowledge

Making goods evolved over several centuries from craft production to complex and highly automated manufacturing processes. A companion paper by R. Jaikumar documents the transformation of firearms manufacture through six distinct epochs, each accompanied by radical changes in the nature of work. These shifts were enabled by corresponding changes in technological knowledge. This paper models knowledge about manufacturing methods as a directed graph of causeeffect relationships. Increasing knowledge corresponds to more numerous variables (nodes) and relationships (arcs). The more dense the graph, the more variables can be monitored and controlled, with greater precision. This enables higher production speeds, tighter tolerances, and higher quality. Changes in knowledge from epoch to epoch tend to follow consistent patterns. More is learned about key classes of phenomena, including measurement methods, feedback control methods, and disturbances. As knowledge increases, control becomes more formal, and operator discretion is reduced or shifted to other types of activity. Increasing knowledge and control are two dimensions of a shift from art toward science. Evolution from art to...

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