The Technological Environment
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The Technological Environment
The effects of new technology are many and varied. It is leading to a rapid increase in teleworking (that is, people working from home using telecommunications equipment), increasing levels of output and productivity, more flexible manufacturing systems and shorter product-development times.
However, new technology is also leading to job losses, shorter product life-cycles and more flexible working patterns (where job security is becoming a rather outdated concept).
Many processes and systems in businesses can be assisted by the use of Information Technology (I.T).
Sophisticated software packages can enable a business to keep detailed and accurate records on its purchases of stock and its sales to customers, using such systems as Electronic Point of Sale (E.P.O.S). This records every transaction made by a business and can, therefore, enable it to monitor its stock levels and sales of products to a 100% level of accuracy. This system can automatically re-order stock when numbers fall to a certain level in the warehouse, as well as monitoring the quantity of each component that is used in the production process. This enables a tight control to be kept on both costs and waste, as well as recording the amount of revenue received from customers and any outstanding customer debts.
Computer Aided Design (C.A.D) is the use of sophisticated computer software to design three-dimensional images of products quickly and relatively cheaply.
Computer Aided Manufacturing (CAM) is the use of computers and software for a wide variety of production tasks, including automated production lines and stock control systems.
An increasing number of businesses rely on computers and information technology systems for their communications (as well as for their financial, production and personnel records).
These records are never 100% secure, and there have been many stories in the media concerning information stored on computers that has been 'hacked' into, as well as computers 'crashing' and losing vital data for which there was no duplicate copy.
Added to this is the increasing amount of business being conducted using electronic mail (e-mail) and the Internet (it is estimated that by 2005, any businesses, which are not using the Internet to trade and interact with customers are likely to lose any competitive edge that they may have). So it is clear to see that the 'information-age' and the 'digital-age' are going to be a major influence on how business is conducted in the future. Any business which does not employ computer-literate staff and does not use Internet-trading is likely to suffer falling levels of sales and profits as a result.
However, there are many problems inherent in what is termed 'the electronic office', a work environment that is highly computerised and relies heavily on software and communications equipment. The main problems can be summarised in the list below:
- Much time is often required to train staff in the use of the new equipment and software
- Computer fraud (e.g. 'hacking' into the computer-held information and changing the data or embezzling the business funds)
- Huge initial capital outlay required in order to purchase the equipment and software
- Equipment and software may become obsolete within a few years
- Resistance from employees and from trade unions to the new working practices