The major drawback of highly automated manufacturing plants is that they are so capital-intensive that they cost their implementers an arm and a leg to service the debt raised to finance their construction. That means that they have to be kept running at peak output three shifts a day six or seven days a week in order to earn their keep. And that, in turn means that if the market for the products being turned out turns sour, it is vital to be able to reprogram all the robots and control computers to make something else in very short order indeed. The only widely-known manufacturing language designed to address the problem so far is IBM’s A Manufacturing Language, AML, which is derived from Pascal. But Hitachi has been working on its own manufacturing language for some time, and all it now needs is a name. Hitachi says that compared with C or Fortran, its unnamed language requires over 90% fewer lines of code to achieve the same ends. Derived from database management software technology, the new slimline language has only between 30 and 40 commands. Although designed primarily to run on Hitachi’s HIDIC line of factory automation computers, it can also run on mainframes.
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