Almost entirely robotic manufacturing should be a top priority for any company. The history of the industrialization of the US, Japan, and others shows that the cheap Chinese labor is going to disappear within a few decades. It seems to be a taboo, or at least politically incorrect, subject, as nobody knows what will happen when nearly all manufacturing jobs are deprecated. Nevertheless, even a slave human labor force could not compete with an almost entirely robotic process. Of course, no politician in any nation is going to advocate obsoleting millions of manufacturing jobs during their terms.
The up front cost of robotics is not the biggest problem.
It is that it takes longer than the life of a consumer product to design and install the robotics.
Cars and the production lines to build them are designed in parallel and take years.
For consumer electronics the most flexible, reconfigurable robotic line is small, nimble human hands.
If the Chinese turned to robotics for consumer electronic assembly they would miss the market window.
The things that will never come back are the high volume goods with short design cycles. Constantly introducing new designs makes it harder to mechanize the production.
If we want to produce it should be in high volume products with long lifespans (I know that ABB in sweden are producing industrial switches in completely automated lines, it works since the model upgrades and retooling happen seldom) or the other extreme low volume, specialized.
That's how I see it. Guess things will change in the future the more flexible the automatic production lines becomes.
"So companies like Rockwell Automation should, and probably are, respond to this need. Robot machines that can quickly be reconfigured."
Yep. I think it's the distinction between what Peter F. Drucker called "rigid mass production" and "flexible mass production".
"What seems to be happening instead is the other way around. It's China that is changing, to be more in line with other developed countries."
Agreed, but I think that change is less a matter of China doing it to be more in line with other developed countries than of that change being forced upon it as part and parcel of the development process. One of the issues the Chinese government faces is attampting to manage that change, which is a lot like riding the back of a charging tiger and trying to get it to go in *this* direction while not getting bucked off and mauled in the process.
"For sure, though, globalization will work to level the playing field internationally. Those on top are throttled back, hopefully without actually going backwards but who knows, and those on the bottom get to move up."
That's happening world wide. The current problems in the Euro zone are largely caused by it. Adopting common regulations and a common currency enforced a level of transparency I don't think folks really thought about when they were putting it in place. It's suddenly glaringly obvious who is uncompetive, and what countries are trying to prop up local industries that can't compete and preserve jobs that are going to places where it can be done cheaper.
The problem is whether in fact those on top get throttled back and those on the bottom get to move up. The latter requires places for those on the bottom to move up to, and the roadblocks there are related to the reasons they are on the bottom.
I'm afraid this is a rather dramatic over simplification.
If you could get God to work a miracle to order, and that 50% direct and indirect taxes magically went away, you would still have a cost structure that could not compete with China.
We're a First World nation, and that sort of thing is inherent in and an outgrowth of that status. China id a Third World nation attempting to bootstrap itself the First World status. If it succeeds, it will face the same issues for the same reasons.
Live in a flat close to the factory? Those aren't "downtown" any more, and mostly haven't been for a *long* time. I live in NYC, and the former industrial space that had been factories 50 or 100 years ago is being repurposed as living space. The factories are rather far out of town, placed where they are for reasons that have far more to do with the cost of land and proximity to transport (like highways and rail lines) than where the folks who work in them live. (There is no way I could have a factory manufacturing goods in quantity in NYC proper. The land costs and property taxes would be prohibitive, and I'd face huge issues in getting raw materials in and finished goods out. I'd also face problems getting a work force.)
Residential communities tend to develop around such industrial areas, and people get to work by car.
Right. That's why automobile sales in China are exploding to such a degree that "the government" has to decide who should be allowed to drive one. And that's why air pollution in cities like Beijing has reached epic levels.
The truth is, US cities are changing. People are moving back closer into town. All of this happens naturally, as gasoline costs go up and as people get tired of commuting long distances.
Another phenomenon is telecommuting, but that mostly works for office workers.
keep on waiting then, china wont adopt US model, it's building instead a real 'smart' 'green' city. subway, high rise. the US model of urban development is acturally a chaos and waste of resources, yep you get privacy and freedom, but the efficiency is extremely low.
seems US heading to a crisis without doubt...
I agree with those who say that manufacturing in the US will need to be automated to a very large extent, if it is to be competitive with China. But there's another dimension to this.
Apple uses Foxconn because it's cheap *and* they can quickly change the production line. This is because they are not very automated.
So companies like Rockwell Automation should, and probably are, respond to this need. Robot machines that can quickly be reconfigured.
As to US workers moving back into company dormitories close to the production line, and working 60 hour weeks, that would happen following a major collapse of the economy. What seems to be happening instead is the other way around. It's China that is changing, to be more in line with other developed countries.
For sure, though, globalization will work to level the playing field internationally. Those on top are throttled back, hopefully without actually going backwards but who knows, and those on the bottom get to move up.