How to Know How Things are Made

If the closure of textile mills and shipbuilding yards correlates with the decline of artisan skills and craftsmanship in the US or the UK, do we want to see domestic manufacturing return? In conjunction with the upcoming presidential election campaign in the US, our national media is casting a spotlight on trends in production. It seems that, this time around, the prospect of "insourcing" is becoming a key issue. The Republican hopeful John Huntsman invigorates audiences with statements like, "We're on the cusp of a manufacturing revolution in this country." Obama's White House recently held a conference on insourcing as a means of counteracting the evaporation of factory jobs that the US experienced in the second half of the 20th century. Unsurprisingly, both parties unanimously claim to support domestic manufacturing. This brings up questions about how it's going to happen. Lower wages? More efficient production? Reliable protection of trade secrets? More skilled workers?

Image from our 2009 visit to the UK furniture company Ercol's Chiltern facility.

Hear more about these issues in a recent episode of To The Point with Warren Olney. The show begins, "After years of decline and predictions that it might never return, manufacturing is making a comeback in the United States. What industries are on the upswing? What roles to they require?"

Also, from the trade group PPMA in the UK comes news that a study on the relationship between robotic tools and employment. "The latest study conducted by the market research firm, Metra Martech Positive Impact of Industrial Robots on Employment published recently by the International Federation of Robotics (IFR) in Tokyo, demonstrates that 3 million jobs have been directly created in recent years by the use of robots and a further 1 million positions  estimated globally by 2016.

Ercol produces its entire range of furniture in Chitern. 

"Mike Wilson Chairman of the British Automation and Robots Association (BARA) said "This is great news for British manufacturing. The IFR study highlights the importance of robotics to the future growth of UK industry and the jobs it will create as a result. The recently launched government funded Automating Manufacturing Programme is providing assistance to companies looking to use automation to improve competitiveness and drive growth."  He concluded "Together we can make UK manufacturing the best in the world and create the jobs that our country needs."

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