A lot of commentary about jobless recovery recently. It brings to mind many comments from politicians campaging for election. They are going to bring jobs back to America. I don’t think so.
Job creation is not a political act. Politicians create nothing, except maybe more red tape or hiring more people to process more red tape.
Real job creation starts when someone gets a good idea and turns it into something useful. Sometimes, people get great ideas that transform the way we live, and they get rich in the process. Good for them. And good for us. I like air conditioning, I like cellphones, and I like great sounding music and a cold drink on a hot Texas afternoon.
Politicians can rarely help this process. The best thing they can do is get out of the way. Quit making it more difficult to do business. Protect the country from foreign invasion and provide for domestic security. Let the rest of us get to work. Be wary when government promises to make things better for you, it comes with a very hefty price tag.
The economic changes that are taking place are dramatic, and just getting started. Part of the reason there aren’t more jobs is that a lot of factories are being transformed by information technology and hard automation technology. It takes fewer people to run a facility these days. And fundamentally, that’s what it takes to compete in the world market.
What is less clear is that the great gains in productivity allow American factory workers to earn an average of $24.11 per hour and production managers in highly automated industries earn $33.61 per hour. Both workers will be competing with Chinese workers whose wages rose from $0.50 an hour in 2000 to an expected $4.50 an hour by 2015 according to Boston Consulting. Those numbers should give us all pause for what it will take to stay competitive. But given the high productivity of American workers, the high quality and yield, and reduced transportation costs for goods in the US, there is hope for much improvement in the next few years.
Some of the efficiency is a result of increasing automation. The robot market is undergoing dramatic transformation as new robot offerings from companies like Universal Robots extend lower pricing and easier programming to prospective new users. The semiconductor industry continues to drive electronics prices resulting in lower cost to implement control and communications. All of which results in expanding applications. And expanding opportunities for those suppliers.
Job growth will come from a different direction. New manufacturing technologies like 3D printers, will begin to work their way into the mainstream and create new businesses that didn’t exist before. Companies like MakerBot that start with 3 or 4 people pushing an idea into the real world, will create businesses that grow to 50 or 100 employees. Multiply this time thousands of new ideas that are getting started every day.
This is where real job creation takes place. And mechatronics will play a part in it, all the way.