SUMMARY: Mr. Davenport, a management professor at Babson College, spoke to The Wall Street Journal about how knowledge workers can thrive in a robot age.
CLASSROOM APPLICATION: Students will explore the advantages and disadvantages of developing and purchasing specialized production equipment.
1. Why is automation and technology so attractive to manufacturers? To services? What benefits do they expect?
2. How can a manufacturer or service decide that it is time to invest in new technology? What are the challenges to implementing new technology?
3. Is the purchase of technology the same as a continuous improvement effort? How are they different? How are they the same?
4. Why can manual tasks or low-technology tasks be more reliable and flexible than automated tasks? What is gained by purchasing technology? What is lost?
5. The article describes how technology is designed to improve productivity. Describe a technology that is currently used at your company that was designed to increase productivity or replace workers. Do you use fewer workers by using this technology? Is the technology improving productivity? Could you obtain the same results using a manual system? What are the advantages and disadvantages to keeping this technology in place?
6. The article provides an opportunity to discuss the differences between technology purchases and continuous improvement. Does your company have a continuous improvement program? How do you determine when to purchase technology and when to improve the process? How could you strengthen your continuous improvement program to reduce the frequency with which you need to purchase new technology?
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