By Brian Huse, Director, Marketing & PR, Robotic Industries Association
U.S. President Barack Obama seems to be in favor of a manufacturing policy that is more than lip service. It would be difficult to argue that the U.S. government is known for promoting industry like its counterparts in China, Japan, Korea and even Germany, France or elsewhere in the world. So it merits consideration when Obama’s Administration expresses an opinion about American manufacturing – the topic of a meeting hosted today (December 22, 2009) by Vice President Joe Biden.
As the nation sends smaller hoards of its downsized working class citizens to toy stores and shopping malls, it still doesn’t seem to register that all those toys made in China (let alone machine tools) pump money to state subsidized factories where workers are lucky to have indoor plumbing at home. Of course, workers in the U.S. are lucky to have a home these days so maybe we can start to relate.
When any economic disruption seems to send trembles through the grid, talk of support for U.S. manufacturing is often met with political heat. It has been too hot for most administrations to touch issues like trade deficits or undervalued currency.
Who will Biden see at his meeting? Small business owners get credit for making most of the U.S. job openings but will they get proper representation? Perhaps green energy will dominate the stage. (Isn’t it interesting to learn that $425 million in stimulus money to one Texas wind farm will purportedly create 2,000 manufacturing jobs overseas, so says Senator Sherrod Brown, D-OH.)
Technology leadership seems to be theme for this administration, and perhaps that bodes well for the robotics industry. Robots are multifunctional devices that help even the playing field with low-wage countries. Some worry robots take jobs away, but when you have 50-cent-per-hour workers who needs robots? (Answer: any maker of automotive, electronic or household goods that requires world-class quality.)
The myth about robots is it will replace man. It is just a tool, though, and lucky for man we have it. Many lucky people sell and use robots. Readers in the business may cringe when looking back at 2009, what with sales slumping in 2009, but selling and using robots can make for a very rewarding job. Robotics industry people are some of the most amazing, smart and innovative people in business, most of whom all get their hands dirty when it comes to making stuff.
Manufacturing policy must be strong in the U.S. Lives depend on it. A nation depends on it. We can have a great service economy, and we will, but our roots are in manufacturing and we must tend to the basics like equally valued goods and services. Robots won’t solve all our problems but little else has been proven to work so well as an equalizer in the international (and vastly low-wage) marketplace.
RIA will continue to support efforts to strengthen the manufacturing policy with a goal to help its members – including robot users – compete and do business. Please give us your best, President Obama, because the U.S. gives its best when people are working and that is what we need now.