Don’t Blame the Robots for Job Loss – Industry has Always Dealt with Automation

During the last 18 months of the hard-fought presidential campaign, we heard a lot of discussion about the declining state of the manufacturing in the U.S. Just this week, President Trump used his inaugural speech to talk about the “graveyard of abandoned factories, scattered like tombstones across the landscape” to describe the number of factories that have closed.

Various “experts” tell us not to expect these lost manufacturing jobs to ever return to levels once enjoyed by our parents’ generation. There is no doubt the United States doesn’t employ as many manufacturing workers as it once did. America lost 5.7 million factory jobs between 1998 and 2013. These same experts often will point to robots (or technology) as being the real “job killer”. Their opinion is that automation is taking over production, so any manufacturing brought back to the states isn’t going to create any jobs. So, why bother investing in manufacturing at all – technology is the future!

Technology and Manufacturing have always co-existed

But is automation really the main reason why those jobs disappeared?

Many researchers would say that the job loss was an effect of offshoring, particularly the result of opening up trade with China. If that is the real culprit, then automation is getting a bad rap. You only have to look at our past history of manufacturing to understand that technology has always been part of manufacturing. Henry Ford built his business model on automating the assembly line. New technology means more efficiency.

Technology, in fact, is a big reason why we should continue to prioritize manufacturing. Manufacturing provides the genesis for most of our technological edge. It is the sector that drives much of the R&D activity. Manufacturing is the leading buyer of technology, accounting for 90% of all new patents and 70% of private-sector R&D.

Manufacturing is essential to providing the fertile soil for R&D and technology. For this reason alone, manufacturing job growth should remain a priority for our policymakers.

As a leading executive recruiter, Key Corporate Services has targeted relationships with many top companies in the Manufacturing & Engineering Industries. Contact us today to speak with one of our team members.

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