What is Mechanisation?

Mechanisation has been around since the industrial revolution and meant the replacing of human or animal power with that of a machine or tool. For example, in weaving individual weavers used to make cloth on a hand loom until the invention of the mechanical loom allowed them to produce far more and more quickly. Almost overnight the industry changed and many hand looms and their operators went out of work. Automation is the next step in that industrial revolution and was made possible by the advent of computers and control technology.

What is Automation?

Automation is the use of control systems and robot technology to reduce the need for humans in the production of goods and services, instead replacing them with computers and robots. From the earliest computers, that were designed to carry out the millions of calculations needed to build a power station (as in the case of the Harwell Dekatron computer) accurately and quickly the advantages of automated functions were clear. The idea really took hold commercially in the 1950s from a desire to be more efficient especially in the banking industry and this drove computer development.

Businesses realised that where they employed large numbers of people to carry out a repetitive task such as entering numbers in a ledger to process financial transactions for individuals and companies, they could do far more with less people by using the new business computers being built. They went from being able to carry out a few million transactions a day with human employees to a few million an hour using a computer.

What impact did Automation have on jobs and society?

This had a huge impact on the service industry initially with many losing their jobs. With the advent of robotics the idea of automation spread into the manufacturing industry to the point where today the latest automated factories and warehouses use state of the art robots to perform functions traditionally done by hand 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, with a fraction of the human workforce needed to oversee the production.

Advantages of Automation

Disadvantages of automation

  • WITCH Why the computer was needed

    Running time: 01:18

  • IBM Introduction

    Running time: 01:18

Teacher Notes