Posted by: coastcontact | August 14, 2016

Manufacturers returning to America means jobs for robots, not people

Another article in the Los Angeles Times re-states what I have been writing about for a few years.

Workers at Bicycle Corporation of America assemble bikes - LA Times 8-14-2016

Workers at Bicycle Corporation of America assemble bikes for Wal-Mart, Target and other retailers. (Bicycle Corporation of America)

Here’s a little reality check on the current presidential campaign and promises by both Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton to bring back jobs from overseas.

It’s about a private Michigan company called Ranir, which makes, among other things, the business end of electric toothbrushes. After spending two years and millions of dollars to reengineer its toothbrush heads, Ranir brought back fully one-fifth of that production from China to its facility in Grand Rapids.

There’s just one catch: Thanks to the new robotic manufacturing process that Ranir adopted, it takes only four workers at the American plant to do the same job that almost certainly required dozens more in China.

The story goes that William Lee, an English minister, grew tired of hearing the incessant clicking of his wife’s knitting needles. Alternate versions of the story say that Lee was trying to win the affections of a lady who was more interested in her knitting than she was in him. In 1589, he modified the looms that were used to create rugs with hooks that would form loops that would be released during each pass of the thread, thereby knitting a whole row at once. Lee left his church work and went to secure the blessing of the queen (Elizabeth I) to ensure that no one else could create such a device and allowing him to make a healthy profit. Elizabeth denied his request and Lee went to France to try the same thing. Henri IV granted Lee the rights that he asked for, but was soon assassinated leaving Lee to die poor in 1610. Lee’s brother, James, took the idea back to England and was assisted by a man named Ashton in Nottingham in creating the first knitting factory. It wasn’t long before it was so cheap to create machine knitted clothing that many local hand-knitters were petitioning the government for limits of the business. (Sound familiar?) Lee’s design remained virtually unchanged until the 1700s when it was modified to include the kitting frame and later to accept other materials like lace and silk or create ribbed materials that could stretch.

Just as hand knitters in 1600 could not stop progress, today American factory workers are asking the United States government to stop progress. They might delay progress but in the end things will not be as they were during the industrial revolution.

Yes! It does hurt!


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