Automation Doesn't Mean Fewer Manufacturing Jobs?

, by Jim Ryan, 1 min reading time

An article from Brad Marley at SME argues that "more automation doesn't mean fewer manufacturing jobs." The idea seems to be that machines will "ensure safety," augment "their human counterparts and allow workers to refocus their efforts on higher value jobs," and bring flexibility and consistency to production. Marley quotes Jan Irzyk of ANCA, who says that "Before workcells came on the scene, there was a lot of manual labor being done on the shop floor" that "required the workers to be in one place for hours doing repetitive tasks." So, Marley's argument seems to be that after automating its manufacturing processes, the number of new "high value" jobs a factory will have will be as great as the number of tedious manual labor jobs it eliminated by automating.

It's certainly an interesting claim. If we assume that it is true and we assume that "high value" jobs require larger employee salaries, then we can infer that salary expenses will rise after a manufacturer automates. Of course, there is also the large capital expenditure for acquiring the machines. We seem to be in the red. So, how, then, does automation provide a positive ROI? How do we get back into the black? The answer would have to lie in the better production quality Marley mentions: flexibility, consistency. Add to that the higher rate of production afforded by automation. From these would flow an increase in revenue that would be greater than the increased expense?

Big if true!

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