Network Infrastructure / Changing Workforce

Perspective: U.S. manufacturing may depend on automation to survive and prosper

By Martin Neil Baily for the Brookings Institution

Dec 21, 2015

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The manufacturing sector is still very much alive, and reports of its demise are not just premature but wrong. If we want to encourage the development of a robust competitive manufacturing sector, industry leaders and policymakers must embrace new technologies.

The sector will be revived not by blocking new technologies with restrictive labor practices or over-regulation but by installing them—even if that means putting robots in place instead of workers. To speed the technology revolution, however, help must be provided to those whose jobs are displaced. If they end up as long-term unemployed, or in dead-end or low-wage jobs, then not only do these workers lose out but also the benefits to society of the technology investment and the productivity increase are lost.

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For more perspective on how advanced automation will revolutionize the manufacturing workforce, read our latest Big Picture Interview, "Coming soon to your plant: Iron Man."