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productivitythe relationship between the physical output of a product and the factor inputs which have gone into producing that output. Productivity is usually measured in terms of output per man hour, an improvement in productivity showing up as an increase in output per man hour.
Productivity is important to a firm because it enables the firm to establish a COMPETITIVE ADVANTAGE over rival suppliers: a. given output can be produced at a lower resource cost, enabling a firm to supply this output at a lower price; or alternatively the firm can now produce more output from the same amount of inputs, enabling the firm to increase its total profit return. A high rate of growth of output per man hour also puts the firm in a better position to absorb inflationary cost pressures arising from wage increases and increases in raw material prices, should it be difficult (see PRICES AND INCOMES controls) or competitively inopportune to increase prices on a pro rata basis.
A firm can improve its productivity in a variety of ways, including the adoption of better working practices (particularly the removal of RESTRICTIVE LABOUR PRACTICES) and pay-incentive schemes (for example PROFIT-RELATED PAY and PROFIT-SHARING schemes); the adoption of methods for economizing on the STOCKHOLDING of raw materials (for example the JUST-IN-TIME stock ordering system). An especially important source of productivity improvement is the use of superior production methods (for example switching from labour-intensive BATCH PRODUCTION to continuous capital-intensive MASS-PRODUCTION processes), and investment in the latest ‘state-of-the-art’ technologies (for example COMPUTER-AIDED MANUFACTURING systems (CAM) and COMPUTER-AIDED DESIGN (CAD)). See LEAN MANUFACTURING, ECONOMIC GROWTH, EXPERIENCE CURVE, SPECIALIZATION, HOSHIN.
productivitythe relationship between the OUTPUT of an economic unit and the FACTOR INPUTS that have gone into producing that output. Productivity is usually measured in terms of output per man hour to facilitate interfirm, interindustry and intercountry comparisons. An increase in productivity occurs when output per man hour is raised. The main source of productivity increases is the use of more and better CAPITAL STOCK (see CAPITAL WIDENING and CAPITAL DEEPENING).
This important point can be illustrated in the following three stages:
- Suppose, initially, that the assembly of a motor car is a labour-intensive operation: it takes a team of 10 men working with a minimal amount of capital (spanners and screwdrivers only) one whole day to assemble one car;
- The firm now invests in hydraulic lifting gear (CAPITAL DEEPENING), and this cuts down considerably the amount of time in aligning parts for assembly, reducing the time it takes to complete the assembly operation to, say, one tenth of a day
The same team of men is now able to assemble 10 cars a day - its productivity has gone up tenfold;
- The firm introduces a continuous-flow assembly line with automatically controlled machines (again, capital deepening), which one man can operate. Output increases to, say, 50 cars a day; the productivity of the remaining man has increased from 1 car a day (a one-tenth part of 10 cars) to 50.
Just as importantly, 9 men have been ‘released’ from the team. Either they too could all be put to work on a similar automated assembly line (capital widening), in which case the total output of the 10 men is now 500 cars per day (10 x 50), compared to 50 before. Alternatively, they could be redeployed outside the car industry, thereby helping to increase output in other sectors of the economy
Increased productivity thus makes an important contribution to the achievement of higher rates of ECONOMIC GROWTH.
See JOB, CAPITAL-OUTPUT RATIO, SPECIALIZATION, QUALITY CONTROL, RESTRICTIVE LABOUR PRACTICE, WORK STUDY, X-INEFFICIENCY, ORGANIZATIONAL SLACK, SUPPLY-SIDE ECONOMICS, COLLECTIVE BARGAINING, NEW AND OLD PARADIGM ECONOMICS.