Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Repost, with Comments: How Automation Helps Bring Manufacturing Jobs to the U.S.



Like the author, I've been in the automation industry for the bulk of my career, and like him, have seen the ups and downs of the industry in response to, or as a result of, decisions to outsource key components of manufacturing.

In the 70's, it was all about "vertical integration." Companies believed owning the majority of the supply chain would enable them to control costs, gain efficiencies, and better manage distribution.  In the 90's and 2000's, it was about strategic outsourcing.  Companies would outsource those parts of their manufacturing process that were not their core strength.  The EMS (Electronic Manufacturing Services) market took off, as high tech/electronics/med device companies outsourced some manufacturing and assembly, keeping the design and sometimes sourcing aspects of manufacturing internal.  This phase was a real boost to MES providers, who used the need for process visibility to sell their applications for track/trace/genealogy/supplier management (score cards) and integrated quality to both the OEMs as well as outsourcing partners.

When the economy started to soften, the EMS market didn't necessarily collapse, but it did decline. And now, fast forward another decade, and the cycle is continuing again, with one huge difference--the quality and controls of the previous decade are missing, and the US economy is affected to the point reshoring needs to happen to keep us viable.  Automation, as the author states, helps the economy, for it's the maintenance, upkeep, and education of the automation solutions that need to be held by the workforce. It's a necessary and vital reverse.

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