The Future of Automation Under the Trump Administration: Jobs, Innovation, and Entrepreneurship

In the News
January 18, 2017

President-elect Donald Trump’s stated focus on protecting, creating, and returning jobs to the U.S., particularly in manufacturing, offers both opportunities and challenges for Association for Advancing Automation’s (A3) stakeholders.

As an organization, our role is to support and promote the future of automation, for suppliers and integrators as well as end users.

With that in mind, our input to the incoming administration focuses on three critical elements in how automation can benefit the U.S. economy. These include defining and preparing for the jobs of an automated future, driving U.S. innovation in automation technologies to meet global demands, and supporting entrepreneurship as the engine of American economic growth.

Jobs of the automated future

Many of the manufacturing jobs that left the U.S. in the past several decades are not the same jobs that will — or should be — available to American workers as part of reshoring efforts and manufacturing growth. Repetitive, heavy-lifting jobs that don’t require human decision-making or insight (the 3 “Ds:” dangerous, dull, and dirty) are prime targets for the future of automation both in the U.S. and overseas.

In fact, rapidly rising Chinese labor costs, an aging workforce, and extensive government support have contributed to China’s push to extensively automate its manufacturing operations. As a result, that country has become the largest user of robotics in the world for the past several years.

Similarly, U.S. manufacturers need the advantages of automation in order to compete in global markets. With the resulting improved output, as well as product consistency and quality, automated manufacturers can focus on innovation and design and meet consumer expectations for the latest and greatest products in ever-faster timeframes.

Automation is critical to the ability of U.S. manufacturers to profit, grow, and build jobs. But research continues to show that even current increases in automation are not addressing the significant jobs gap in the U.S.

According to a recent report by the International Federation of Robotics (IFR), the U.S. has installed about 135,000 new industrial robots between 2010 and 2015, principally because of automation in the car industry.

During this same period, the number of employees in the automotive sector increased by 230,000. This matches the conclusions of A3’s own whitepaper, “Robots Fuel the Next Wave of U.S. Productivity and Job Growth,” which noted an increase in U.S. employment from 1996 to 2016 — the same 20-year period that showed consistent and record growth in the installed base of robots.

The new challenge is to prepare the American workforce for the jobs of the future. Those jobs certainly include designing and building new automation technologies, jobs that didn’t exist a few years ago.

Even more urgent is the need to fill the existing and growing need for workers to install, program, operate, and maintain automation equipment, as well as for trained operators to work alongside today’s collaborative robots and other equipment.

According to a recent report by Deloitte, an estimated 2 million of the 3.5 million jobs needed in manufacturing by 2025 could remain vacant. The analysis noted that although interest in...

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