In Defense of Automation

Dec. 1, 2010
The popular press tends to bash automation as a job killer, here's the latest installment.
In an article posted on Yahoo Finance , "Disappearing Jobs: High-Paying Careers With No Future," author Louise Tutelian singles out plant management as a dying career.  Employing stats from the Bureau of Labor Statistics' Occupational Outlook Handbook 2010-2011, she includes judges, broadcasters, fashion designers, insurance underwriters, newspaper reporters and travel agents as well.  Of production managers, specifically, she writes, "Automation and offshoring will decimate the ranks of production managers by 2018. According to the BLS, employment will drop by 11,900 jobs from a 2008 total of 156,100. With faster machines and better productivity, one plant can do the work of two, squeezing managers out. Increased imports of manufactured goods will do additional damage. With 50 percent of the textile industry moving off-shore, for example, half the plant managers in that sector are at risk of losing their jobs. The outlook is equally bleak for managers in the computer, electronics, and auto parts industries."Seems to me that Louise might be trying to create a little controversy.  By her own quoted numbers, production manager jobs will decrease only 7.6% over a period of 10 years-not exactly decimating the ranks. Other studies show engineering jobs are expected to grow 8% over the same period.  And is she taking into account any "new economy" plants such as electric cars, solar and wind products, etc.  Or American plant managers transferring overseas to run "offshore" manufacturing?So typical of the general media to cast automation in a negative light.  She does not mention benefits like greater productivity leading to a better bottom line so the plant doors stay open, let alone safety of the workers, security of the product being produced, as well as energy savings.Either way, plant managers can take a little consolation, your boss--the CEO--is also on the endangered species list!