Surprising Facts About Manufacturing Automation – Part 3: Pricing
Americans remain passionate about their manufacturing industry. In the last election cycle, the return of manufacturing jobs to the United States was an important part of the campaign platform. However, manufacturing automation still casts a shadow on the industry. Americans continue to wonder if the “rise of the machines” will eventually put them all out of work.
We’d like to set the record straight. This is the third article of our three-part series on the surprising truths behind manufacturing automation.
In our first article, we talked about how automation stands to benefit the economy and the real numbers behind the “job-stealing” myth. Last week, we talked about the real reason why the economy is struggling. This week, we’ll talk about automation. Enjoy the last installment in our series of Surprising Facts About Manufacturing Automation.
Fact: Automation Actually Creates New Jobs
In previous articles, we looked at how production levels have dropped and our spending habits favor inexpensive goods. Imported goods are less expensive because factories overseas can make things less expensively than domestic ones. Given these circumstances, what can we do?
We have two options to leverage the price of American-made goods so that they are priced competitively for our customers.
- Lower the prices on American-made products. This enables us to compete with the prices of imports.
- Raise the prices on imported goods. This way, an American-made product is similarly priced as a foreign-made product.
Option #1 can happen with automation. Increasing production with manufacturing automation can actually decrease the cost of goods sold, which would lower the prices of American-made products. It would improve profitability on American-made products, which would funnel more money into opening new plants, hiring more people, and increasing output.
Option #2 would result in a proposed border adjustment tax. This would impose additional taxes on imports. This may increase the number of plants, sales, and jobs in America because it would penalize companies who manufacture overseas, but it would also increase our costs here in the States. Experts say that unless our dollar increases in value by 20% (a highly unlikely scenario), consumers might end up paying more for the things we buy because a border tax would raise import prices to the same rates as domestic prices.
Automation: More Jobs for People AND Machines
Machines can do some things better than people can. Boring, repetitive jobs lead to mistakes if human workers are behind them. Put a robot in a person’s place in that situation and it never gets tired and doesn’t make a mistake because its mind wanders.
But consider other jobs with very specific tasks that only a person can do. People learn easily, make improvements based on creative problem solving, and can predict if-then scenarios faster than machines. Machines cannot take all of the jobs away from people.
Detailed, exhausting, or boring work can easily be shuffled off to the machines. Machines are purchased once and, as long as you keep them in good condition, they’ll keep performing the same tasks for years.
Yes, machines can continue doing the same task for many years with only maintenance to keep them running. This is both good and bad. Machines don’t mind doing the same job for years on end. They don’t complain about their bosses, they don’t ask for overtime pay, and they don’t need breaks.
The bad thing is that machines can’t learn new tasks. A machine programmed to move boxes from point A to point B cannot be asked to answer phones tomorrow. It’s impossible.
Even if you could program a box-lifting machine into a communications machine, it would be costly. The parts needed for communication are quite different than the parts needed to make equipment that can lift boxes. Reprogramming automation tools for different functions is like deciding to use an old smartphone as a digital photo frame. Sure, it can display photos, but at what cost? You’d spend more time recharging it than you would enjoying the photos.
It’s better to have the right machine in place for the job you want done. Buying a separate electronic device to display photos may be an investment, but it is one that pays of in time-savings.
People are the ones who build and program machines. We design them, write the computer codes to run them, and are needed to change them when the situation changes. Humans are needed to work with machines so that the machines can do the jobs we’ve asked them to do.
As manufacturing automation helps us build more products, those products will need to be sold. That increases job opportunities in the retail industry.
Automation may increase the production capacity of our nation’s manufacturing companies, but humans come up with the new products to sell, and the new ways to sell them.
Only people can dream, imagine, and create. And what we dream, imagine, and create will be the next opportunity in the future. Manufacturing automation is indeed changing the industry, and what will come next is anyone’s guess. But it’s not the death knell for the industry. It’s more like a transformation, a metamorphosis as it grows into something new and better.
ONE by Scanco and ACS
When it comes to manufacturing automation, ONE by Scanco and ACS understands this field better than many others. Our many years of experience can help you with manufacturing and warehouse automation tasks such as barcoding, seamless ERP integration, and more. Visit our manufacturing automation page to learn more.