We’ve been seeing a lot of great news about reshoring, sharing it here on our blog, on our Twitter account, and on our website. While this is great news, it’s an interesting time for this shift to happen. With the advances in robotics and other automation technology, as well as other factors, it’s become more cost-efficient to invest in domestic manufacturing. As factories all over the world are experiencing a technology upgrade, this also appears to be a critical time to move manufacturing back home. The New York Times explores what it means to move factories back home and equip them with cutting edge automation technology.
Skilled Work, Without the Worker
by John Markoff
The Obama administration says this technological shift presents a historic opportunity for the nation to stay competitive. “The only way we are going to maintain manufacturing in the U.S. is if we have higher productivity,” said Tom Kalil, deputy director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy.
Government officials and industry executives argue that even if factories are automated, they still are a valuable source of jobs. If the United States does not compete for advanced manufacturing in industries like consumer electronics, it could lose product engineering and design as well. Moreover, robotics executives argue that even though blue-collar jobs will be lost, more efficient manufacturing will create skilled jobs in designing, operating and servicing the assembly lines, as well as significant numbers of other kinds of jobs in the communities where factories are.
And robot makers point out that their industry itself creates jobs. A report commissioned by the International Federation of Robotics last year found that 150,000 people are already employed by robotics manufacturers worldwide in engineering and assembly jobs.
But American and European dominance in the next generation of manufacturing is far from certain.
“What I see is that the Chinese are going to apply robots too,” said Frans van Houten, Philips’s chief executive. “The window of opportunity to bring manufacturing back is before that happens.”
Read the full article at The New York Times.
We at the Robotic Industries Association of course see this expansion in our industry as a good thing. We’ve seen member companies grow and expand, we’ve seen companies saved from closure by automation, and now we’re seeing the potential of reshoring, in part due to advances in automation technology.
But we like to keep an open discussion. What sort of answers do you have for the questions raised in the article?