Thursday, June 1, 2017

This is the future of industrial jobs


We've discussed on several occasions the impact of automation on the workplace, and the fact that a very large proportion of jobs currently requiring humans to do them will, in the not too distant future, be automated.

Here's a short video about an aircraft parts manufacturer in Italy.  Note the hi-tech surroundings, the automation of almost every task, and the very few people visible on the factory floor.  They don't even call it a 'smart' or 'automated' factory any more;  it's now referred to as a 'brilliant' factory.





I did a bit of research into Avio, the parent company of this factory.  It makes civil and military aircraft engine parts, and is involved with the Ariane rocket as well.  In other words, this is the highest of high-tech industry . . . and yet there are virtually no human workers actually operating the machinery.  Everything is computerized and automated.  All the humans do is supervise, and intervene if necessary - which isn't very often.  The machines never need to eat or sleep, never get sick, never go on vacation, and never interrupt their work except for scheduled maintenance or occasional repairs.  They churn along 24/7/365.

That's why human jobs are being automated out of existence in industry.  Commerce and general business are sure to follow whenever and wherever possible.  You need to take a good hard look at whether your present job and/or career is a candidate for automation;  and, if it is, you need to seek retraining and a new skillset, as quickly as possible.

Peter

17 comments:

Old NFO said...

Automation leads to the ultimate goal in manufacturing. Repeatability, interchangeability, and extremely low rejection rates.

Irish said...

Here's one for you. Spend the 18 minutes watching
this automated crankshaft manufacturing facility.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h5ZsZmIOeYI

The problem I see is all the automation to mass produce parts will
cause unemployment and all those parts won't be able to be afforded
by the people put out of jobs.

It's a downward no win spiral.

David Lang said...

@Irish, they said the same thing about every technology advance that's been part of the industrial revolution.

At best, this is a case of crying wolf too many times, at worst it's yet another example of being wrong.

There was a time when 90% of the population worked on farms technology improvements have reduced that to about 2%. the other 88% of the population isn't starving in the streets, the freed up manpower has been used to do other things.

Eliminate the disincentives to hiring and running your own business, and people will find things to do. Keep raising the barriers (and preaching that all business owners are evil) and nothing will save you.

CDH said...

Agree with David Lang above...and add the NEW jobs to engineer and design both the product and the manufacturing equipment, maintain it all, and not to mention the overhead jobs to sell, assemble, pay, etc. and you can easily have a net GAIN in jobs due to the existence of an industry that was simply not there before. We just need students to work on STEM programs/degrees, not basket weaving.

Change is a given. Fear is optional.

JK Brown said...

The problem with the comparison to the earlier shift from agricultural to manufacturing is that today we have highly interventionist government policies that are, intentionally or not, designed to inhibit change. New innovative businesses are difficult paperwork-wise and costly to open. Workers have "protections" from the government that make them risky to hire. Better to hire the young without the previous baggage or hidden "workplace" injuries.

Throw in that all shift toward machinery is to replace muscle power, animal or human, (BTW, how's the automation of agriculture work our for horses? Maybe a sharp decline in their population?) as well as to reduce the skill of the operator. It may seem otherwise, but a man who was productive with a handsaw on a construction site was very skilled. Much more than the man with the circular saw, even though the latter is more productive due to using non-muscle power and range of movement restraints. The majority of people working on a production line in the 1950 was far less skilled than the machinist building, say the automobile, in 1910. The production worker knew how to manipulate his machine, but not how to make the part or whole. But the production machine, with less skilled human operator, was more productive due to the knowledge, "skills" built into the machine.

Now, we have machines that no longer need a local operator. Even if there is real-time monitoring, fewer workers can monitor more machines and don't have to move feedstock or widgets in and out. The problem is not everyone has the inherent talent to "debug" a system when it glitches. So those who aren't efficient at such work will be pushed to other less remunerative work, but only after getting stuck in the government intervention paperwork clog made sticky by the aging politician remembering back when his daddy worked down a the factory moving heavy items.

Irish said...

It will be interesting to see how this all plays out.

I own a CNC machine shop and have more work than I can handle.
The problem is competent help that doesn't want huge money to come
in and sit on their butt and play on their cell phone.

When I went to the EASTEC tool show there were a bunch of booths
displaying 3D printing. That industry is making leaps and bounds.
The other side of the coin is, if and when, they perfect that technology it will remove lots of everyday machined parts.

We have seen many industries leave the US. Leather, Shoe, Founderies, Semiconductor, Automotive, Mass production Items. All for cheaper labor.

Yes, the US keeps rolling along but there seems to be more and more people that are living on less and less and can't afford things or
they buy things they can't afford and rack up debt.

Things will get interesting one way or another. :)

Stay safe out there.

JK Brown said...

Back in 2014, I listened to the Paul Romer and Edward Glaeser talking about urbanization. The point was made that even then, the square footage per employee in manufacturing was already twice that of other forms of businesses. It was a new development. Back in "the day," the sq ft/employee in manufacturing was still about the same as say commercial or office uses even though manufacturing was on large plots of land.

Manufacturing will not be returning to urban/near urban areas because it needs land and few people these days.

https://www.city-journal.org/html/edward-glaeser-and-paul-romer-discuss-rapid-urbanization-14548.html

Chris Mallory said...

We are rapidly approaching a tipping point. We will have a couple options in front of us. Either a government guaranteed income or Brazil, but a Brazil where the poor are very well armed.

The 50% of the population with below average IQ's are not going to be engineers. They could stand in a factory all day and attached part A to part B.

It is well past time to close our borders to all immigration and start mass deportations of those who have come here in the past 50 years.

Anonymous said...

The big roadblock to innovation is, as JK Brown mentioned above, government. Specifically, the federal government, but there's no shortage of state and local government activities gumming up the works.

I'm waiting for a single state to recognize the impact of government's dead hand and create a manufacturing-friendly environment. It won't be an eastern or northern state because those are solidly wedded to the fed dot gov, and more importantly, have fully embraced the fed dot gov operational practices. The Left coast is out because they have their own flavor of government interference, some of which is much worse than the feds' version.

That single state will have to be able to tell the feds to pound sand on their excessive regulations and make it stick, have climates - physical, social and economic - which are attractive enough to lure and keep the skilled workers, and support unbridled innovation.

That list is about a dozen states long, at best.

tweell said...

The problem is that someone of average or lower intelligence does not make a decent technician, engineer or scientist. The folks that worked on farms hoeing weeds could move to a factory job, but now where do they go? Automation and semi-AI can take care of most jobs that don't require intelligence and creativity. In addition, in the US we've been subsidizing the left side of the IQ curve for generations, thus getting more of them.

I'm not seeing an easy answer here.

Anonymous said...

Any general suggestions on what skillsets would be good to retrain on?

Anonymous said...

Chris Mallory, I think you hit a strong point, and tweell picks up on it. While others above restate many observed difficulties that have changed but stayed the same for nearly 200 years, you found a linchpin. Nobody wants to admit they themselves or their hard working sons and daughters are less than average. But definition of terms says half of us are.

A very good leader (not sure what that looks like), would find a way to maintain active productivity, reasonably rewarded, for all the population. Most importantly, do it without making us feel bad for accepting it, or giving it, no matter which side we find ourselves on. And I agree that citizenship is a line that should be regarded in this. When our own sons and daughters are productive and rewarded, then we can turn attention again to others we can assist.

I traveled through Oregon to go to college, and would sometimes remark that the world needs gas jockeys too. I've since learned New Jersey has similar laws. Academics seem to believe everyone can be the same, if they just study harder. Reality says that's just not true.

Anonymous [1JUN 2:04p local], don't keep me in suspense, where should I move? Is there a coincidental Tax benefit model in place there? Inquiring minds want to know.

Thanks for the good reading,
Paul

Unknown said...

Many states have been actively trying this.
Spoiler alert: it doesn't work. Several major manufacturers have moved their headquarters from (business friendly) Idaho to (business hostile) Illinois. Why? In a word, bribery. The CEO and Members of the Board make out like bandits at the expense of their company's long-term financial health. (But by the time the piper must be paid, the guilty are long gone.)

bmq215 said...

Anonymous [1JUN 3:39p], coding. It almost doesn't matter what language it is, as long as you develop the skills for debugging, disentangling, and improving code. All three of which are much more about logical thinking than they are knowledge of a specific syntax and instruction set. That being said, Python is a good place to start and if I had to only know one language it'd be C++ (that's a tough one to start on though).

Unknown said...

coding is one important skill, but there are many others.

all this new automation still requires that people design the parts to be built. there are a lot of coders who absolutely suck at design. Not just software design and UI design, but also hardware design.

I don't mean creating fancy, busy layouts, I mean taking the sketches produced by the small number of creative people and turning them into concrete designs that can then be passed on to machines to build. This takes far less creativity than you would think, but it takes careful attention to detail and a willingness to do a lot of simple tasks repeatedly until you are done. It doesn't matter what CAD program you learn, the features are becoming similar on all of them, but the ability to take a sketch of something and turn it into an item that can be produced is only going to be needed more.

And of course, there are the 'trades', plumbers make really good money, as do electricians, etc.

As production becomes more automated, the ability to do one-off designed items is going to become easier. Some of it will be customizing existing items, some of it will be creating new items. We are entering an era of mass customized production.

David Lang

Josh O said...

Which is automation needs to be outlawed for commercial purposes while there is still a chance to keep the cat somewhat in the bag, it will harm society only to save a few assholes money in the short to mid term. Not everyone wants to fight for a handful of high tech jobs, not everyone can, but people still need to be able to work.

Unknown said...

Josh, you are about two centuries late in opposing labor saving devices.

There have always been people opposed to technology, probably going back to when Ug the caveman started keeping a fire going.

This is just the next step along the road. There's no more reason to stop short of this step than there was to stop short of any other step.

There is also no possible way for you to force every company in every country in the world to be less efficient than they could be. It is suicidal to deliberately cripple ourselves.