Impacts of programmable manufacturing technology: A review of recent studies and contingency formulation

Jeffrey K. Liker, Ann Majchrzak, Thomas Choi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

17 Scopus citations


This paper reviews the literature on the social impacts of programmable manufacturing technology (PMT). Several perspectives on the social impact of technology are identified ranging from simple additive models that view technology as having a set of individual and independent causal impacts to a contingency perspective which views the impact of technology as dependent on technical and organizational characteristics. The paper statistically summarizes 30 empirical studies within the 1986-1990 period and finds common trends in findings as well as contradictory evidence. The common trends are that PMT tends to lead to more organic organizations, but also meets with negative employee attitudes, stress, and perceptions of reduced job security and mobility. The contradictory evidence is that most studies report simple, additive effects, while a substantial portion find that the impacts depend on a wide range of contingency variables. The authors argue that simplistic views of PMT as being a homogeneous set of technologies with uni-directional non-contingent social impacts is neither realistic nor useful. A number of future research directions in this area are suggested.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)229-264
Number of pages36
JournalJournal of Engineering and Technology Management
Issue number3
StatePublished - Sep 1993
Externally publishedYes


  • Manufacturing
  • Organizational design
  • Programmable automation
  • Social impacts of technology
  • Sociotechnical systems

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Industrial relations
  • General Engineering
  • Strategy and Management
  • Management Science and Operations Research
  • Information Systems and Management


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