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June 1990, Vol. 113, No. 6
Productivity in the photographic equipment and supplies industry
Stuart Kipnis and Clyde Huffstutler
Prior to World War II, the photographic equipment and supply industry primarily manufactured cameras, film, and projectors. In the postwar years and especially since the late 1950's, the industry has helped develop and refine several products that had a substantial impact on our lives. Photocopiers, which have become the largest item produced in the industry during the last 20 years, have greatly boosted office productivity. Advances in x-ray technology have led to significant improvements in health care. Micrographics, "instant" photography, and audiovisual communications are other examples of important product developments.
By responding to user demands for new and innovative products, the industry experienced strong growth throughout the 1960's and 1970's. However, as in the case of other advanced electronic industries, intense competition from foreign manufacturers dampened output growth during the 1980's. To regain a competitive edge, a number of the major U.S. manufacturers Of photographic products have recently implemented broad, corporate-wide restructuring plans.
This study introduces a new Bureau of Labor Statistics measure of productivity in this industry. It seeks to capture the dynamics of an industry that has gone from a period of strong output growth to one of slower growth and is currently attempting to recover.
Output per employee hour in the photographic equipment and supplies industry increased at an average annual rate of 4.3 percent between 1967 and 1987, compared with 2.7 percent for all manufacturing.1 Over this period, output rose 4.9 percent a year while employee hours rose 0.6 percent. Average annual growth rates between the two subperiods defined below differ markedly with regard to output and employee hours:
|1967-87. . . . . . . . . .||4.3||4.9||0.6|
|1967-79. . . . . . . .||5.5||7.5||2.0|
|1979-87. . . . . . . .||3.8||1.0||-2.7|
Between 1967 and 1979, output per employee hour increased at an average annual rate of 5.5 percent, more than double the 2.6-percent rate for all manufacturing. Strong demand for such products as plain paper copiers, cartridge-loading cameras, and photographic film caused output to rise 7.5 percent a year. This strong demand was fueled by favorable demographic trends, increases in personal disposable income and leisure time, and a diverse market for photographic equipment and supplies. To meet this demand, manufacturers added production capacity and increased the number of production workers by 1.4 percent a year.
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1 The 1987 Standard Industrial Classification Manual of the U.S. Office of Management and Budget defines the Photographic Equipment and Supplies Industry and classifies it as SIC 3861. The major products included are (1) photographic apparatus, equipment, parts, attachments, and accessories, such as still and motion picture cameras and projection apparatus; photocopy and microfilm equipment; blueprinting and diazotype (white printing) apparatus and equipment; and other photographic equipment; and (2) sensitized film, paper, cloth, and plates, and prepared photographic chemicals for use therewith.
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