Despite well-publicized efforts by major U.S. businesses to increase the level of automation in their factories, officials of most mid-size manufacturing companies believe the use of advanced technology by U.S. industry is too low.

According to a national survey of manufacturing executives by Grant Thornton, a major accounting and management consulting firm with an office in Salt Lake City, 67 percent of the officials interviewed feel American manufacturing uses too little automation.Only 2 percent believe that U.S. industry has too much automation and 21 percent feel the level of automation is just about right.

"As Japanese and European competitors have demonstrated all too well, the development and use of advanced technologies is critical to the success of manufacturing in today's global marketplace," said R. Brent Anderson, a partner in charge of Grant Thornton's Manufacturing Industry Committee in Salt Lake City.

"While U.S. industry has increased its use of automation in recent years, the level of capital investment associated with new technologies can be high, and, for smaller companies, difficult to find," he said.

Although one of every five manufacturers interviewed said the level of automation in U.S. industry is adequate, 40 percent believe their own companies have enough.

When asked about their use or planned use of the most common manufacturing technologies, 52 percent of those surveyed said their companies employ computer-aided design and just-in-time inventory methods. Another 13 percent plan to use CAD, a system that employees computer technology in product development, while 15 percent intend to adopt JIT methods, which lower manufacturers' costs.