By Sonya James
Posting in Education
Unemployment and productivity both soar in the American manufacturing industry. What is going on?
The BBC's Jonny Dymond describes the future of manufacturing in the United States as "quiet".
Not because demand is down. Not because of labor strikes. But because of educational requirements and robots.
"As employment has plummeted, productivity has soared," Dymond writes.
Akin to the shift in labor brought on by the industrial revolution, today's technological revolution has pulled the percentage of factory work in the United States down from a third in the 1950s to below 10%.
The pay is still great - $77,186 with benefits for a standard manufacturing job in 2010. The question is, what does standard now mean?
"That path to mass middle-class work is gone," says Lou Glazer of the consulting group Michigan Future Inc.
"The only high-paid factory work left is going [to] people who both program and maintain machines. That work is going to be high-paid but it requires much higher skills."
There will also be fewer and fewer of these jobs available.
The clanking of hand-operated machinery has been replaced with the light whir of hydraulic lifts.
"We don't forge things anymore," says Aaron Crum, the president of AMI, a Michigan-based maker of fuel cells. "We use lasers to cut metal, we extrude ceramics, we do things that are different. And so because of it, we need a different labor force to make it happen."
American identity has relied heavily on the idea that hard work pays off - hard work no matter the kind. Looking today at the rapidly shifting labor landscape, this idea appears more like a mirage.
"You just needed to be a hard worker," Gerry Gardner, a former GM factory worker told Dymond. "And you needed to show up every day, because it wasn't easy work. You could put the kids through college, we had a couple of weeks vacation."
If sparks are flying in factories like AMI (and the numbers show that they are), few people are around to see them.
[via: Jonny Dymond at the BBC]
Aug 9, 2012
do you know how danger is hiding in a auto asemble plant .i do chem exsposer,and phiscal dangers.a lot of employess lose fingers ,eyes and lives.an when you retire you more than likely dide befor you hit 70 .go ahead not one of you could handle the noise,the chems ,or the work pace.so go sit on your asses and think you deserve the money you get payed.
Unions fought bringing robots into manufacturing many times. This is sort of a replay of the mythical story of John Henry who won a race drilling through a mountain with his opponent a steam powered drill. The robots are expensive but took over the dangerous parts of manufacturing while delivering better products. The path for unskilled labor now leads to retail and fast food. The results of modern manufacturing is that fewer workers are needed and those workers must have skill and experience. What is not mentioned is that individuals can use modern manufacturing equipment to create new products. A good example is the Tech Shop; it has computer controlled manufacturing equipment available for people to design and make their own products. This is a good deal for the common man.
I would add that the fat-cat union bosses have had a nearly equal hand in destroying free enterprise in our manufacturing industry. I work with a former engineer at Maytag (now bankrupted/taken over by Whirlpool) and he's told me stories about union rules that make the hair on the back of your neck stand up. One in particular that stands out is how union workers would head across the street to a convenience store and have their lunch from a brown bottle in a paper bag (the classic 40 oz. lunch) and then return to the warehouse and hop back on a forklift. The union contract prohibited any action against the employee until there was an accident of some sort. Gee, let's wait until someone is injured before firing the noontime drunk on the job. Thanks, unions, for your contribution to quality!
The clearest example of this has been Boeings problems opening its South Carolina plant. They have broken no laws, but the Obama administration has buried them under frivolous lawsuits and complaints in support of the big unions funding his reelection campaign. Boeing made legitimate and legal business decisions to open that plant and the Obama administration has yet to prove differently. Thousands of jobs were being held up until Boeing defied the National Labor Relations Boards threats and opened the plant in 2010. Lacking evidence of wrong doing the feds have done nothing, but they did hold up thousands of jobs for over a year. Another example is Bucyrus International of Wisconsin. They lost a $200 million order from a company India for coal mining equipment in 2010 because the US Export-Import bank blocked the sale. The loss of the sale prevented a factory from being reopened. The sale was blocked because a bureaucratic regulation, not a law, said that a US company could not do business with a foreign company that caused greenhouse gasses to be created. A Japanese firm got the sale after the Ex-Im Bank decision.