Report: Slave and Expert Systems

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  The 19th Century: Machine-Assisted Manufacturing

Eli Whitney's proposal for a simplification and standardization of component parts marked a further milestone in the advance of the automation of work processes. In 1797 he suggested the manufacture of muskets with completely interchangeable parts. As opposed to the older method under which each gun was the individual product of a highly skilled gunsmith and each part hand-fitted, his method permitted large production runs of parts that were readily fitted to other parts without adjustment and could relatively easy be performed by machines.

By the middle of the 19th century the general concepts of division of labor, assembly of standardized parts and machine-assisted manufacture were well established. On both sides of the Atlantic large factories were in operation, which used specialized machines to improve costs, quality and quantity of their products.

browse Report:
Slave and Expert Systems
    Introduction: The Substitution of Human Faculties with Technology: Early Tools
-3   Early Tools and Machines
-2   The 17th Century: The Invention of the First "Computers"
-1   The 18th Century: Powered Machines and the Industrial Revolution
0   The 19th Century: Machine-Assisted Manufacturing
+1   The 19th Century: First Programmable Computing Devices
+2   1913: Henry Ford and the Assembly Line
+3   1940s - Early 1950s: First Generation Computers
1980s: Artificial Intelligence (AI) - From Lab to Life
Division of labor
The term refers to the separation of a work process into a number of tasks, with each task performed by a separate person or group of persons. It is most often applied to mass production systems, where it is one of the basic organizing principles of the assembly line. Breaking down work into simple, repetitive tasks eliminates unnecessary motion and limits the handling of tools and parts. The consequent reduction in production time and the ability to replace craftsmen with lower-paid, unskilled workers result in lower production costs and a less expensive final product. The Scottish economist Adam Smith saw in this splitting of tasks a key to economic progress by providing a cheaper and more efficient means of producing economic goods.