Manufacturing the Future: A History of Western Electric

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This is a full-length history of the Western Electric Company, which was the manufacturing arm of the Bell System. As manufacturer in the communications revolutions in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, Western Electric made products that accelerated society's pace, such as telegraphs, telephones, an early computing machine, radios, radar and transistors. Western's history offers numerous examples of the difference between innovation and implementation. The aftermath of Western's 1882 acquisition by Bell Telephone, for instance, reveals vertical integration as a lengthy process rather than a single event. Ironically, although Western transformed business worldwide with innovations in areas such as quality control and industrial psychology, the company was slow to implement these innovations itself. Western's dual role as captive supplier for a regulated monopoly and as government contractor led to its most rapid change, in the area of civil rights.