Friday, January 27, 2012

The Jobs are GONE. Forever. Deal with it.

President Obama and many others keep saying we need to bring manufacturing jobs and even ag jobs "back to America." Apparently, President Obama and others don't realize the U.S. now manufactures more goods and harvests more crops than at any time in our history. The jobs were not all outsourced. They were robo-sourced, along with your bank teller, grocery clerk, bookkeeper, file clerk, and hundreds of other jobs that are not coming back because they were not shipped overseas. They are gone. And gone for good.

The Kia plant in Georgia is a prime example of automation. The plant manufactures as many cars as the busiest 1950s GM plant. But, unlike the old auto plants, modern plants are "manned" by robots. Watch the video and ask yourself how many men and women were replaced by the automation. This plant is in Georgia not South Korea. They can run the line with as few as 1000 workers according to one report I read.



In the 1970s, GM's "Buick City" plant employed 77,000 workers on over 200 acres. They assembled 21,500 cars a year, using parts from throughout GM's distribution chain, employing more than 150,000 people directly or indirectly for this one massive plant. One GM plant made 54,000 Chevy vehicles in the 1979-80 model year. Those are impressive numbers. Overall, the GM production rate in the 1970s was roughly 6,000 direct employees per 200,000 vehicles manufactured. Not bad... but 1:33 is nothing today.

The Kia plant? It manages a 1:120 production ratio. According to the Kia Motors website they can produce 360,000 vehicles with 3,000 on-site jobs and 7,500 "indirect" jobs.

The manufacturing jobs are gone. Sure, some remain, but a fraction of the old number produces more cars in the U.S. than ever before.

And don't imagine this is merely manufacturing. It is farming, too, which has led productivity gains via technology since farming began. The metal plow replace wood sticks. The tractor replaced the oxen or mule. The massive harvester replaced hundreds of laborers. You get the idea.

One man (or woman) can easily harvest a small cherry orchard today. The plight of the farmworker? Solved.



Where I am from, it is common to have walnut orchards that cover 400 or more acres of land. You'd imagine this employs thousands of men and women for the harvest. You'd be wrong. Here is how they deal with the modern walnut orchard.



And once you shake the walnuts to the ground, you "sweep" them.



Automation. Not every job left the United States. In fact, most did not. Study after study shows we make more now with fewer people.

The jobs of tomorrow? Creating, programming, and maintaining all this automation. Sensors, servos, meters, and parts I can't even imagine are used to build the modern assembly line. Yes, some factories did move overseas, but eventually China will automate, too. The quality, to be blunt, is simply better when a robot assembles a car. The measurements are precise. The harvest? No one is injured by the repetitive tasks. It is far safer overall to farm mechanically.

If you only have basic skills, your job can be and will be automated. Even some college jobs will be automated. That's the future. As a nation, we need to deal with that new reality.

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