In the midst of a corporate board meeting, the chief executive officer flips a switch, and instantly a screen overhead lights up with the company's profit-and-loss statement, tallied up to the minute. Another flip of the switch, and the screen glows with a graph disclosing just what progress the company has made up to the moment on Contract X.
This Brave New World technology is now a possibility in a score of major U.S. corporations, which are deep in a new phase of computer technology known as management information systems. The goal of these systems: to give a manager instant reports on the latest developments in every phase of his business.
Before computers, the dozens of departments within a major corporation kept independent records, the essentials of which might filter up to top management with agonizing slowness. When computers first came along, all they did was to speed up the flow of information within departments. Sometimes, by generating too many new reports, they actually gummed up the works. Management information systems seek to feed current information from every department of a company into a central computer network which, after correlating progress in all areas, will feed back fresh instructions.
So far, no company has developed a system to do all its basic thinking for it, but this may come. Some new approaches: > General Precision has a new system called LOCS (Librascope Operations Control System), which it claims cuts its costs $1,000,000 a year by tightening up controls throughout the company.
> Sperry Rand, with its new PACC (Product Administration and Contract Control) system, now has nine people handling data-processing assignments that previously occupied 201 employees.
> Standard Oil of New Jersey is in the middle of a four-year installation of its URS (Uniform Reporting System). URS will keep worldwide tabs on all Standard's "dollars, barrels and people." and for management's benefit will separate out the statistics vital to top-level decision making.
> Lockheed Corp. in collaboration with RCA, is building a system called ADA (Automatic Data Acquisition). Under ADA. an employee on the production line tells the central computer when he has finished a given job promptly gets back orders on what to tackle next.