The juxtaposition of two articles this week was stark: A report from the Brookings Institution think tank in Washington was titled “Is Manufacturing ‘Cool’ Again?” while a New York Times headline today said, “Chinese Graduates Say No Thanks to Factory Jobs.” Continue reading
Marlin Steel’s Drew Greenblatt was quoted today in the New York Times in an article about automation and job growth that countered perceptions in a “60 Minutes” segment earlier this month.
In December, we won a job from a Chicago company that for over a decade has bought from China,” [Greenblatt] said. “It’s a sheet-metal bracket; 160,000 sheet-metal brackets, year in, year out. They were made in China, now they’re made in Baltimore, using steel from a plant in Indiana and the robot was made in Connecticut.”
In the article, a representative from the Frankfurt-based International Federation of Robotics appeared puzzled that a stale argument over whether robots hurt jobs had resurfaced in the United States. In Europe and Japan, manufacturers, workers and policy makers aren’t so distracted by an antique debate, he indicated. The federation announced that it plans to issue a report next month describing how the robotics industry directly and indirectly will create 1.9 million to 3.5 million jobs globally by 2020.
Drew also framed the argument in a way that any red-blooded, purple-wearing football fan in Marlin’s hometown of Baltimore could appreciate:
My robots are going to work during the Super Bowl, he said. “Do you know how popular I would be to ask my employees to work during the Super Bowl?
My office isn’t on the factory floor at Marlin Steel. It wouldn’t seem to be in a high traffic area, but it is. Numerous times a day, engineers and plant workers pass by to visit the salesmen nearby to share ideas on solutions on how to build something better, how to produce it faster. Innovation begets more innovation.Everyone exhibits a shared stake in the products that are going out the door.
An interesting piece in The New York Times this morning, titled “High-Tech Factories Built to Be Engines of Innovation,” described how economists, engineers and business leaders now say the wholesale separation of research and production overseas helped contribute to the stunting of American manufacturing. “In industries that produce complex, high-technology products,” it said, “companies that keep their research and manufacturing employees close together might be more innovative than businesses that develop a schematic and send it overseas for low-wage workers to make.”
“Think about how much better we are to have Andy near Tony near the salesmen,” said Marlin Steel President Drew Greenblatt. “The communication and dialogue engenders innovation, a willingness to try things on the fly and react quickly to set backs or challenges. You want more lines of communication close so ideas cross-pollinate faster.”
As a GE executive said in the article the collaboration involved in manufacturing, designing, prototyping and producing a product, particularly a piece of innovation, isn’t necessarily sequential. It’s often a simultaneous process.
As I type this, engineer Jon just entered salesman Jason’s office to discuss a solution with a client. That simultaneous process is going on right now.