It seems there is a lot of talk in the United States about quality manufacturing jobs. But, to compete with other countries and their low cost of labor, many manufacturing companies are buying robotic systems, and putting forth robotic mechanized assembly lines. It’s a lot cheaper to invest in a robot, amortize the cost of that equipment over a period of time, rather than paying for union workers, their pensions, and health care benefits.
Yes, I know that sounds like a mean-spirited thing to say in this day and age, but as a businessperson anyone that wishes to make a profit, maintain shareholders equity, and grow a business has to be thinking here. Luckily, there is some good news for industrial, mechanical, and manufacturing corporations right now the United States. Orders are up, and the global economy appears to be recovering. That means there are products to be made, and buyers waiting.
The supply chain is coming back to life, and things are looking pretty good. But before you jump up for joy and assume that this means more people will go back to work. Perhaps you should consider what I have to say. Most of the manufacturing equipment being bought up right now is high-tech equipment, the kind that operates with fewer employees, not more. Indeed, there will be people who will have to run many of these machines, but they will not need the hundreds, or even thousands of people on the line to produce the same amount of goods as before.
In fact, there was a great little article recently in Industry Week titled; “Manufacturing Technology Consumption Up 138.1% – February Consumption Totaled $329 Million” written by the IndustryWeek Staff and posted on April 11, 2011. The article stated in the teaser paragraph: “February U.S. manufacturing technology consumption totaled $329.43 million, according to AMT — The Association For Manufacturing Technology and AMTDA, the American Machine Tool Distributors’ Association. This total was down 10.9% from January but up 99.3% when compared with the total of $165.31 million reported for February 2010.”
The labor costs in China are also creeping up, along with inflation there. No longer will people work for 18 to 20 hours a day, 6 to 7 days per week. That sort of slave labor isn’t going to happen anymore. Rather than one dollar a day, these folks wish to live in the middle class, and that means they need to make twelve hundred dollars per year (which will increase after China’s currency is properly reevaluated). Already, that is an increase from one dollar a day to nearly 3 dollars per day. Even China is buying more automation equipment for their factories to become more efficient. In many regards this will level the playing field for manufacturers worldwide, but it doesn’t do very much good for employment in any country.