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Source data automation techniques collect data in computer readable form at the point and time of an activity. The data are automatically transmitted to a central computer or intermediate storage device where it is recorded and analyzed. When properly applied in the industrial environment, source data automation can increase productivity through improved data timing and accuracy, improved production control, and reduced inventories. However, a source data automation installation can be expensive and its benefits, some of which are difficult to identify or measure, must be carefully weighed against the cost. The Department of Defense, with its complex of manufacturing and repair facilities and its large purchases from the private sector, would be a prime benefactor of properly applied source data automation.
Some Government industrial-type activities have employed source data automation systems to their advantage. Barriers to diffusion of this technology include a lack of criteria for assessing source data automation's potential, complexities involved in equipment procurement, and poor use of pilot study results. Source data automation systems and pilot projects are not tracked or sponsored beyond the command level within the Department of Defense, and feedback on the desirability of source data automation is lacking. Application of source data automation in Government industrial activities is growing, and a central source for information on installed systems would be beneficial.