The nuts and bolts on how robots create jobs

Trumpf Sheet Metal Punch at Marlin Steel

Trumpf Sheet Metal Punch at Marlin Steel

Roughly 700,000 to 1 million new jobs will be created worldwide in the next five
years, according to a report on the link between job creation and automation from the International Federation of Robotics. It was published in PACE (Process and Control Engineering), the journal of the Australia-based Institute of Instrumentation Control and Automation (IICA). The analysis by Metra Martech, a London-based market research firm, estimated direct employment at 2 million to 3 million jobs, which equates to 2 or 3 jobs per robot with roughly 1 million industrial robots in operation worldwide. It estimated indirect employment at twice that number.

“The model company is no longer a large entity such as GM, Chrysler, or Ford but small and medium sized enterprises . The need in such an economy is far more dependent on higher degrees of adaptation, ease of use, and other factors that enable small runs of made-to-order products,” the report said. “Robotics technology has historically been defined by the automotive sector and driven by price and the need to automate specific tasks particular to large volume manufacturing. The new economy is much less focused on mass manufacturing, however, and more concentrated on producing customized products.”

The PACE article, which described the findings to an international audience, mentioned the successes at Marlin Steel, which has invested more than $3 million in automation in recent years at the same time it has added employees and set revenue records. This was Marlin Steel President Drew Greenblatt in the article describing the company’s trajectory from the late 1990s when its workers earned $6 an hour and shaped steel wire by hand at the rate of 300 bends an hour.

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Marlin Steel in New York Times today on robots creating jobs

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?