The emergence of dramatically innovative, or radical, new manufacturing technologies can force pivotal and life-threatening decisions for industry competitors. These technologies can represent a huge cost for adopting firms, but may also offer the chance to achieve competitive advantage through superior manufacturing. While prior research has considered a range of production process decisions (e.g., JIT, mass customization) and outcomes for end-product technologies, little attention has been given to adoption decisions relative to core manufacturing technologies. This study examines an industry's adoption of major manufacturing technologies over several decades and demonstrates that two groups of contingencies related to adoption (e.g., timing and cumulative effects) have a significant impact on firm performance. Based on a sample of over 1,000 firms, the results provide insights into the effects of adoption timing and ‘manufacturing technology bundles’ on firm survival. We also find that adoption of manufacturing technologies prior to the inflection point of the estimated Bass diffusion curve for each technology leads to significant reduction in firm mortality. Thus, we are able to demonstrate the ability of the Bass model to predict the survival outcomes of firms facing manufacturing technology adoption decisions. The strategic implications of these pivotal decisions are considered. Copyright © 2008 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.