Industrial Engineering

Worried About Automation?

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ISE Magazine – Volume 49, Number 10

Robots help boost U.S. manufacturing jobs – but for how long?

Many prognosticators say most manufacturing employment is doomed by robotics and automation. But for now, adding more robots to North American jobs has helped add more humans to the factory floor. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported 12.4 million Americans working in manufacturing in April, up 25,000 from the previous year and 1 million from early 2010. However, 2016 was the first time in decades that more manufacturing jobs came back to the United States than left, according to the Reshoring Initiative, which stated that 50,000 jobs left the country while 77,000 jobs returned.

Most came from China, as labor costs there have skyrocketed 12 percent to 15 percent a year for the past 15 years. But part of the reason is that automation allows businesses to operate a factory with fewer workers. Recode reported on a highly robotized Adidas factory opening in Georgia that will employ about 160 human workers. So while more jobs are staying onshore, factories aren’t employing as many people as in past years.