Automation Industry Association Criticizes 60 Minutes Segment ‘March of the Machines’

Jan. 15, 2013
The Association for Advancing Automation (A3), the Ann Arbor, Mich.-based association and advocate for the automation industry, is disappointed in how 60 Minutes portrayed the industry in Sunday night’s “March of the Machines” segment. “While the 60 Minutes depiction of how technological advances in automation and robotics are revolutionizing the workplace was spot on, their focus on how implementation of these automation technologies eliminates jobs could not be more wrong,” said Jeff Burnstein.

Burnstein is president A3, the trade group representing some 650 companies from 32 countries involved in robotics, vision, and motion control technologies.

“We provided 60 Minutes producers several examples of innovative American companies who have used automation to become stronger global competitors, saving and creating more jobs while producing higher quality and lower cost products, rather than closing up shop or sending jobs overseas,” explained Burnstein. “They unfortunately chose not to include these companies in their segment. With respect to MIT Professors Brynjolfsson and McAfee who gave their viewpoint in the piece, they are missing the bigger picture.”

To see the real story in action, Burnstein is urging people to attend the Automate 2013 trade show, scheduled to be held in Chicago January 21-24. One of the presenters from the conference portion of the show—Matt Tyler, president and CEO of Vickers Engineering, New Troy, Mich.—is one of those manufacturing success stories. Tyler said that roughly 90 percent of Vicker Engineering’s automated cells “are producing parts that were previously made off shore while the other 10 percent were also globally competitive, strictly due to automation. Automation has not only allowed us to bring more jobs back to the United States due to our 'new' cost structure, but our profit margin has increased. This ultimately allows us to fund additional growth, which in turn creates more stateside jobs.”

Dr. Henrik Christensen, KUKA Chair of Robotics & Director of Robotics at the Georgia Institute of Technology said, “To paint advances in technology as just taking jobs is very one-sided. Studies have shown that 1.3 better, higher-paying jobs are created in associated areas for every one job that may be insourced.”

In fact, the larger issue is companies are having trouble finding qualified employees to fill these high tech job openings, said Christensen. “We instead should focus on how best to educate our workforce in the United States so that we can remain the leader in automation technologies,” he added. Christensen is the keynote speaker at Automate 2013 on Monday, January 21, 2013 at 8:45 am. He will be speaking on how robotics impact economic growth. 

Burnstein said a conference session at the Automate show will be led by company executives who will share their success with using automation technologies. That session will feature Tyler from Vickers Engineering and Drew Greenblatt, president and owner of Marlin Steel in Baltimore.  Later, both Greenblatt and Tyler will participate in the International Federation of Robotics (IFR) CEO Round Table Discussion on How Robots Create Jobs, where the results of a recent study conducted by the IFR on the impact of industrial robots on employment also will be discussed.

“Automation creates jobs in the United States,” said Greenblatt. “Marlin Steel is hiring people because our robots make us more productive, so we are price competitive with China. Our quality is consistent and superior, and we ship much faster. Our mechanical engineers can design material handling baskets more creatively since we can make more precise parts. Our employees have gone 1,492 days without a safety incident because robots can do the more difficult jobs while our employees can focus on growing the business. American manufacturing’s embrace of robotics will ensure a new manufacturing renaissance in this country.”

“With over 8,000 attendees from around the world, Automate showcases the full spectrum of automation technologies and solutions that are being utilized in many different industries,” said Burnstein. Registration for the show is free.