A Case For Robotics & Automation In US Manufacturing

Kuka Robotics has created an Infographic that presents the advantages that robotics and automation bring to US manufacturing. Feel free to argue all you want that Kuka has a dog in this fight – you’re right.

But now what? Does that make them wrong? I say it doesn’t. As a matter of fact, I happen to agree with the premise that the use of robotics/automation to support the right applications can in fact play a strong role in reshoring production back to the US.

Check out this Infographic from Kuka to get a clearer picture of this premise. (And look below the Infographic for a few more points from me on the subject.)

Robots And Automation Bring Jobs Back To The U.S. <- Link to the Kuka Web site.

The article I posted last year that Kuka quotes, Challenging The ‘Manufacturing Labor Shortage Vs. Automation’ Myth, takes on the mistaken belief that automation has played a substantial role in the loss of US manufacturing jobs. The fact is, offshoring of production in the chase for cheap labor and lax regulations has caused the vast majority of industrial job loss in the US – not automation, and not robots.

And yet, we continue to hear knee-jerk reactions that blame automation and ‘productivity’ for our manufacturing job losses and skills shortages.

For those that hold this opinion or some sort of grudge against manufacturers of – and innovators in – automation technologies, consider these two points:

Let’s forget for just a moment what ’caused’ this travesty.

We are in a crisis NOW that involves not just short-term employment in the US, but the long-term viability of the US to compete and excel in a global manufacturing eco-system. Not to mention, the security & growth of our citizenry. To create and regain even HALF those jobs while some are lost forever to progress, efficiency, and technology seems like a no-brainer to me. Especially if it also means repatriating the downstream job benefits and economic vitality that a strong manufacturing base brings to a region, or a country.

The fact is that automation is but one useful tool in the revitalization of the US manufacturing base.

We should be embracing it intelligently, and without misguided emotions or ignorance.

AJ Sweatt
  1. I don’t disagree that robots can help, but at the same time it is important to understand that robots can create problems and aren’t the only solution. Two points of context:

    – When was the last time that a robot’s creativity, knowledge, and experience submitted an improvement idea? Highly-automated factories are also highly-static, and over time that means they can slip behind human-centric competitors. Very lean companies often report they generate 5-7% productivity improvements each year purely from employee improvement ideas.

    – Toyota’s most efficient auto factory, in a very high cost country no less, has almost no robots. The efficiency results from waste (in all its forms) reduction and a very tight demand pull system.

    • Kevin, I couldn’t agree with you more. Not being defensive, but if you read my legacy posts on related subjects, you’ll see a running theme of bemusement at the widespread belief that automation is a solution in and of itself. It’s a tool like any other, that must be applied and managed by humans with core knowledge of the entire enterprise, process, customers, and technologies. It’s also why I led off with stressing that the use of all automation must be applied ‘to support the right applications.’

      Robots can’t think, recognize value to the customer, adjust to eliminate waste, or elevate value for stakeholders. We actually couldn’t be more in alignment. But I’m hearing so many ‘all good & all bad’ opinions lately, that I wanted to point out that it can have a positive impact on reshoring & manufacturing employment here in the US, especially considering what it’s gonna take to revive those 7-million jobs we lost (gave away).

      Thanks so much for the thoughtful note, and taking the time to stop by. I’m awfully flattered.

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