March 18, 2016
A plea to presidential candidates: Stop talking about bringing manufacturing jobs back from China. In fact, talk a lot less about manufacturing, period.
Here’s the problem: Whether or not those manufacturing jobs could have been saved, they aren’t coming back, at least not most of them. How do we know? Because in recent years, factories have been coming back, but the jobs haven’t.
a small but growing group of companies are shifting production back to the U.S. But the factories they build here are heavily automated, employing a small fraction of the workers they would have a generation ago.
So, yes, even if companies return manufacturing to the US, they will not employ anywhere near the amount of human workers that they once did.
Thus, let us say a company once employed 5,000 people in manufacturing, then moved to China in the late 90s or early 2000s, and then came back 15 or 20 years later to re-open a factory in the US again. It would not employ 5,000 people again. It would be more like 500 people, 10 percent of original, as the new factory would be mostly automated.
Then there are the well known tech companies like Amazon. Amazon.com builds and gets a dozen new gigantic warehouses in the US to help with increased online shopping and use of FBA (Fulfilled By Amazon). That doesn't mean it will suddenly increase the human labor. If one ever looked at how an Amazon warehouse operates, there are robots that go around and automatically pick orders from shelves, using defined travel lanes and scanned barcodes. So, instead of employing 10,000 new people to work at these 12 warehouses, they employ several hundred while the robots do most of the work.