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Outsourced Manufacturing Plant Maintenance Creates IT Opportunities (Video)

Roblimo posted about 8 months ago | from the taking-what-they're-giving-'cause-you're-working-for-a-living dept.

IT 67

American manufacturing plants are no longer necessarily dank, dirty places where large men without shirts sweat until they drop. Rather, most plants today are full of computer-driven machinery that takes strong skills to install and maintain. And since many manufacturers, especially small ones, can't afford to have high level IT and repair people on staff, their maintenance work is often outsourced. Obviously, this doesn't mean outsourcing to a company in China or India (that's offshoring), but to one right here in the USA. Today's interviewee, Chris LeBeau, is director of information technologies for Advanced Technology Services, which is one of many companies that have sprung up to help factories operate efficiently in a highly computerized world. Most of their techs have wrench-turning skills, but more and more, they also have strong IT skills and walk around carrying tablet computers. So what you have here is a whole set of IT-related careers for people who enjoy working with computers but would rather stay physical and move around than spend all day in front of a monitor at a desk. Chris's comments about why IT-based factory maintenance is more usful here than in China are interesting, too -- and may offer a clue as to why some types of industry are bringing their manufacturing operations back to the U.S. from low-wage countries in order to increase efficiency.

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67 comments

At least they're in the shade (0)

mc6809e (214243) | about 8 months ago | (#44768061)

Seriously, many people left the family farm during industrialization to work in manufacturing plants just to avoid working having to be in the sun for 16/hours a day.

Still, technology that improves working conditions is generally a good thing all around.

Re:At least they're in the shade (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#44768151)

Still, technology that improves working conditions is generally a good thing all around.

There is good news and bad news and they are both the same -- you don't work here any more.

Technological improvements to working conditions will continue until the nature of working conditions are moot.

Re:At least they're in the shade (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#44768209)

This is like writing an article telling me that the knife in my back is actually good for me. Then to top it off be dumb enough to fall for it, like most on SD will. I say hey Chris, a big FU to ya pal take your propaganda elsewhere, like CNN or something. F-er

Re:At least they're in the shade (0)

ebno-10db (1459097) | about 8 months ago | (#44768593)

Why don't you post as Ned Ludd instead of AC?

Re:At least they're in the shade (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#44769029)

Wow, that really added to the discussion. Why did you bother to post at all?

Just what I was looking for. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#44768071)

An IT job where I can still hope to be mangled by heavy machinery.

Re:Just what I was looking for. (1)

pepty (1976012) | about 8 months ago | (#44771981)

Maybe not mangled by machinery, but at Tesla they only pay the people operating that equipment $12-$16 per hour. The techs who repair it won't get much more.

Re:Just what I was looking for. (1)

LunaticTippy (872397) | about 8 months ago | (#44779175)

I work at a manufacturing plant doing IT work and make good money. Our operators make $12 to start, I think it goes up to $20 if they are a shift lead. That's pretty good money for somebody with no education, and comes with benefits. I think manufacturing is a good line of work to be in, whether you have an education or not.

All the manufacturing plants I've worked with have a focus on safety, and their workers are far more likely to be injured or killed commuting than working.

Manufacturing is back but not the jobs (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#44768115)

Some manufacturing may be returning to the US but not the jobs or rather fewer, different jobs. A job that took 100 people in China is being replaced in the US by 10 machines and one engineer. Those labor intensive middle class manufacturing jobs are gone and are never coming back.

Re:Manufacturing is back but not the jobs (1)

Skapare (16644) | about 8 months ago | (#44768299)

Eventually, almost all jobs will be gone. Then who will the one percenters sell their products to?

tastes like privilege (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#44768643)

then the Morlocks eat the last Eloi and the cycle starts over again.

Re:Manufacturing is back but not the jobs (0)

ranton (36917) | about 8 months ago | (#44769335)

Eventually, almost all jobs will be gone. Then who will the one percenters sell their products to?

Why do people think that businesses need middle class families to have someone to buy goods? I personally blame the myth of Henry Ford raising salaries so his employees could buy cars (hint: it was just to reduce turnover). The truth is that as long as the total amount of money in the economy is increasing, that alone will improve business opportunities regardless of the level of income disparity. Income disparity only becomes a problem for the rich when they are unable to find enough skilled labor (like in the early to mid 20th century) or once the cost of policing the wretched masses becomes too costly.

If the middle class goes away and a small rich elite has all of the money, all that will happen is sales of the Ford Focus will shrink and sales of BMWs will increase. This trend is bad for the average man, but it will not affect the ability of the rich to find products to sell and buyers for these products.

Re:Manufacturing is back but not the jobs (1)

ebno-10db (1459097) | about 8 months ago | (#44770015)

Why do people think that businesses need middle class families to have someone to buy goods?

Because historically it's true. Your argument that income distribution doesn't matter ignores important realities. Wealthy people consume a lower percentage of their income than others. Great, you say, then they can invest more! Invest in what? Productive investments like factories, improved technology, etc. aren't worthwhile unless you have enough customers. Not only do the rich spend less of their income, but they don't care much about price. They often buy expensive "craft made" goods that don't benefit from more capital investment. So what to invest in? Land? Like other unproductive investments it leads to bubbles if too much money is chasing too few returns.

Re:Manufacturing is back but not the jobs (1)

ranton (36917) | about 8 months ago | (#44770977)

Why do people think that businesses need middle class families to have someone to buy goods?

Because historically it's true.

Historically the middle class is an aberration of the past 100 years, so we have very little information about how the middle class can endure changes in the economy. It is very likely that the middle class is simply a stop-gap to solve the problem of wealthy industrialists needing a large educated workforce. The current trend (although so far a shortly lived trend) is that our economy needs an ever decreasing number of incredibly well educated workers. This is one reason why the upper middle class, something that barely existed until the 70s/80s, is thriving and growing while the middle class is shrinking.

So historically you can really just pick and choose any data you want to "prove" whatever you want. The rest of your response is a well thought out argument, but saying that we have any historical trends to base theories about the future of the middle class is silly.

Your argument that income distribution doesn't matter ignores important realities. Wealthy people consume a lower percentage of their income than others. Great, you say, then they can invest more! Invest in what? Productive investments like factories, improved technology, etc. aren't worthwhile unless you have enough customers. Not only do the rich spend less of their income, but they don't care much about price. They often buy expensive "craft made" goods that don't benefit from more capital investment. So what to invest in? Land? Like other unproductive investments it leads to bubbles if too much money is chasing too few returns.

Most of the large scale investments that improved the world were initially meant for the wealthy (or perhaps the military). Whether it be cars, computers, electricity, indoor plumbing, or anything else I can think of. There are probably many exceptions, but most technologies are first marketed to the wealthy. So it seems that there is plenty of reason to invest even before you start marketing to the middle class. Even if you are just thinking about investments in factories and other forms of mass production, remember that the first crop of super rich industrialists came to power long before the middle class did.

There are plenty of benefits in selling primarily to well off individuals. Apple sure is making a lot more money than Dell is right now. Like you said, the rich don't care much about price so there are huge profit margins there.

Ayn Rand and the Libertards (1)

Safety Cap (253500) | about 8 months ago | (#44773837)

Remember your Fountainhead:

Once all the "Takers" are gone, then the "Producers" can frolic in unabashed glory in their new utopia as their products are no longer taken (or consumed) by people who want them.

And THEN the Morlocks will kill and eat all the Eloi.

Re:Manufacturing is back but not the jobs (1)

ebno-10db (1459097) | about 8 months ago | (#44768665)

Those labor intensive middle class manufacturing jobs started disappearing when they started using automated spinning and weaving in the late 18th century, although the middle class agricultural work started disappearing in the 17th century with the agricultural revolution.

Re:Manufacturing is back but not the jobs (1)

unixisc (2429386) | about 8 months ago | (#44769003)

True. So the next generation of workers simply has to avoid doing the labor intensive work, and instead learn the things that are in demand, like actually maintaining the equipment that does all that production. If enough people do it, or get the skills to, the US could become more attractive for manufacturing once again.

You don't get it. (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#44769527)

If enough people do it, or get the skills to, the US could become more attractive for manufacturing once again.

Pursuing skills that are "in demand" is just falling for a shell game. By the time you acquire those skills, the market will be flooded by other people doing the same and you will be stuck with the latest job to become low paying. Increasingly, you will also be stuck with the crushing debt required to obtain said skills, and thus be even further compelled to take whatever crumbs are scattered at your feet.

BTW, what makes the US unattractive for manufacturing is its relatively high standard of living. Great for selling, lousy for employing. Eventually, its relatively affluent consumer base will become another tragedy of the commons, as every producer just assumes that someone else will pay people enough to by their products. Then it will be game over.

Re:Manufacturing is back but not the jobs (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#44771301)

The cutest part of your post is you actually believe this. The more likely scenario is that the next generation of workers will be making shit wages working at McDonalds because of all the H1-Bs being imported to take up jobs and drive down wages.

there good outsourcing and bad outsourcing (1)

Joe_Dragon (2206452) | about 8 months ago | (#44768147)

The good being that they do care and at least try to keep the same people on the same sites.

Bad is overloaded with temps, subs, roaming staff that can change all the time, and more.

outsourcing vs offshoring (1)

unixisc (2429386) | about 8 months ago | (#44768979)

More seriously I'm glad that the above story draws the difference b/w 'outsourcing' and 'offshoring'. Unfortunately, LinkedIn conflates the 2, but as the above summary points out, they are very different. Outsourcing simply means that work that is not central to the company's line of business, but needs to be done, is handed over to another company, rather than have an in-house department in the company run it. Like having Administaff run all the Admin needs of an organization, since most companies are not in the business of running benefits for their employees. Offshoring is the term that means outsourcing work to China or India.

Obligatory Simpsons (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#44768205)

https://www.google.com/url?sa=t&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&source=web&cd=2&cad=rja&ved=0CDkQtwIwAQ&url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.youtube.com%2Fwatch%3Fv%3DzYu1qW8Dctk&ei=It0oUomAKNDVigLEzYCIAw&usg=AFQjCNHAWI6XvUsavL57ZibSwaHTDDrgFw&bvm=bv.51773540,d.cGE

The Simpsons predicted this (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#44768207)

Replace "wars" with "manufacturing"

"The wars of the future will not be fought on the battlefield or at sea. They will be fought in space, or possibly on top of a very tall mountain. In either case, most of the actual fighting will be done by small robots. And as you go forth today remember always your duty is clear: To build and maintain those robots."

jobs restored...? (4, Insightful)

themushroom (197365) | about 8 months ago | (#44768223)

So what you're saying is: American plants gain 5 IT workers because computers/robots are doing the work, but still have not gained back the hundreds of human workers laid off when the plants shipped their labor overseas.

Re:jobs restored...? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#44768893)

There's something wrong about paying a third-world worker a near-slave wage and shipping the result 6000 miles just to save a few pennies that is significantly less wrong when you replace the worker with a robot that's maintained by a reasonably-paid worker here at home. Automation is the future whereas standard of living arbitrage is just an exploitation of current imbalances.

Re:jobs restored...? (1)

ebno-10db (1459097) | about 8 months ago | (#44770077)

There's something wrong about paying a third-world worker a near-slave wage and shipping the result 6000 miles just to save a few pennies that is significantly less wrong when you replace the worker with a robot that's maintained by a reasonably-paid worker here at home. Automation is the future whereas standard of living arbitrage is just an exploitation of current imbalances.

Excellent but often ignored point. They're not the same, unless you think that nothing ever changes. Unfortunately many economists implicitly think that way (though of course they'd vociferously deny it). Take the old wine and wool example for free trade. Those are agricultural products, hence largely affected by climate and soil. England is not Portugal, and you can't turn it's farms and fields into Portugal's, so free trade makes sense in such situations. Manufacturing goods, information services, etc. are very different. Geography and climate matter little, and capabilities and productivity levels can be changed by a country's efforts. That's a type of change that's largely ignored. Free trade doesn't always make sense under those circumstances.

Ummm what? (1)

avandesande (143899) | about 8 months ago | (#44768251)

"American manufacturing plants are no longer necessarily dank, dirty places where large men without shirts sweat until they drop."

Really did anyone believe this?

Labor will never be what it was (2)

schematix (533634) | about 8 months ago | (#44768257)

American laborers can't compete with labor from China, India, Vietnam, etc. The only way for American manufacturers to keep their doors open at all is to replace unskilled laborers with automated machinery. If they didn't do that then all of the jobs (including the higher end jobs) would be gone. This has greatly reduced the need for unskilled labor and greatly increases demand for people who can design and maintain this type of equipment. Fortunately my job is to program these types of machines, integrate different machine into production lines, and design the underlying infrastructure that supports them. So far it's been a fun unintentional career path.

Re:Labor will never be what it was (1)

Skapare (16644) | about 8 months ago | (#44768329)

They can compete if the US gets hit by a massive depression that makes the dollar virtually worthless. Then $50/hr is enough to buy a half slice of bread each day.

Re:Labor will never be what it was (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#44768429)

Then we'll all be billionaires. Just like Zimbabwe!

Re:Labor will never be what it was (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#44768513)

Yes, Exactly

This is one of the biggest reasons that manufacturing is returning to the US.
Other countries outsource labor jobs to the relative third world to save money, and that is quickly becoming the USA.

It's all part of Obama's jobs plan. a few more years depressing the economy, and the USA can become the new China.

Re:Labor will never be what it was (1)

jbengt (874751) | about 8 months ago | (#44771149)

Massive depressions don't make dollars worthless, massive depressions make labor worthless.

unlink healthcare from jobs and then we can (1)

Joe_Dragon (2206452) | about 8 months ago | (#44768377)

unlink healthcare from jobs and then we can compete or at least do better vs others.

Re:Labor will never be what it was (1)

geekoid (135745) | about 8 months ago | (#44768411)

They can compete if the put big tariffs on countries that don't have at least our federal minimum wage and safety.

Hell, there are slowly loosing the outsourcing edge due to increased energy prices anyways.

Don't be fooled, even in all the labor was local, they would still replace it with machines.
They are more reliable and substantial cheaper.

Re:Labor will never be what it was (0)

foniksonik (573572) | about 8 months ago | (#44768419)

Someone has to make those high tech machines as you say. There is your added jobs. Not only that but someone has to market and sell the machines as well. Lets not forget the big data aspect as those machines will generate lots of it. It's a new industrial revolution.

Re:Labor will never be what it was (0)

AlphaWolf_HK (692722) | about 8 months ago | (#44768437)

That has more to do with how lazy and complacent most Americans are.

In the southwest US, particularly the hotter regions, it can be hard as hell to find anybody to do unskilled hard labor (e.g. trenching) because nobody wants to do it. However first or second generation Mexicans (especially illegals) are almost always willing to do it. I'm not trying to bait or troll here, it's just a fact.

Most Americans have this stupid attitude that some kinds of jobs are just somehow below them. I remember watching a documentary a while back where somebody was offering jobs at McDonalds to homeless people, and they balked at it as being below them, being perfectly content to just live at a homeless shelter with no income at all for the rest of their lives instead. It really is pathetic.

Re:Labor will never be what it was (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#44768471)

Why the southwest? Racist much? I know plenty of liberals in big cities with the attitude you speak of herp de derp.

Re:Labor will never be what it was (1)

ebno-10db (1459097) | about 8 months ago | (#44769031)

Most Americans have this stupid attitude that some kinds of jobs are just somehow below them.

What does that have to do with this post, which is about jobs manufacturing jobs becoming higher level? If you're looking for an excuse to spout your agenda, at least find a post that's relevant.

Re:Labor will never be what it was (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#44769043)

it can be hard as hell to find anybody to do unskilled hard labor

for minimum wage and zero benefits

TFTFY. There's no such thing as a labor shortage. Offer a million dollars an hour and a guaranteed 1,000 hour work year and you'll have hundreds of qualified applicants even in esoteric PhD fields, much less ditch digging. Hell, offer me $10k/week for 12 weeks and cover an AC'ed hotel next door and I'd do it for summer.

Or did you think people want to do hard physical labor in blistering heat without water when they can get paid the same flipping burgers or greeting people in a nice air-conditioned walmart? Those are crap jobs too, but they're not AS crappy as risking skin cancer and heat stroke for the same crap level of pay.

Re:Labor will never be what it was (1)

Desler (1608317) | about 8 months ago | (#44771311)

However first or second generation Mexicans (especially illegals) are almost always willing to do it.

That's because they are desperate and often don't realize how much they are being exploited.

YOU are labor. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#44768481)

Fortunately my job is to program these types of machines, integrate different machine into production lines, and design the underlying infrastructure that supports them. So far it's been a fun unintentional career path.

Since your current success is evidently the result of serendipity and not the result of wise planning, it only stands to reason that you would convince yourself that the world can not possibly change in a way that would leave you shit outta' luck.

In fact, whether we accomplish the tasks that our society needs done with human or automated labor, and where that labor is located and how much it is paid are largely political and to a lesser extent philosophical decisions.

We can pay people a baseline wage to build widgets and thus enable them to feed and house themselves. Or, we can pay them welfare to do the same. Or we can spend that money instead on security to keep the desperate masses at bay. Philosophy's small role is in limiting the available options to those that are at least somewhat civilized.

What we choose in a capitalist society tends to depend on whether there is more money to be made selling widgets, selling outsourcing services or selling security services at any given time, and priorities will switch as those values change relative to each other.

Much the same with your field. We had un-automated factories, so the sales opportunity lay in automation. Eventually, we will have automated factories and people who call the shots will find a way to make it profitable to re-integrate human labor, deprecate your work and, if you are still working, render your experience worthless.

The money is ALWAYS to be made in sloshing resources from one place to another.

Re:YOU are labor. (1)

ebno-10db (1459097) | about 8 months ago | (#44769223)

The money is ALWAYS to be made in sloshing resources from one place to another.

Offshoring is about sloshing resources from one place to another; technological improvements are not. Technological improvements, meaning in this case improved productivity, can be used indefinitely and built upon for further improvement. Without that virtuous cycle, our standard of living wouldn't even be like the 18th century. By contrast, shipping the factories to China is arbitrage, and you'll lose the "advantage" when foreign labor rates increase or the exchange rate changes.

Re:YOU are labor. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#44769689)

Technological improvements, meaning in this case improved productivity, can be used indefinitely and built upon for further improvement.

The flaw in your reasoning is the assumption that "improvements" can be perceived objectively, and that this perception is universal. Specifically, that more technology and more automation, hell, even more productivity are synonymous with improvement and everyone agrees.

Consider that mass produced products are "better" because they are uniform and reliable. Meanwhile, items produced one at a time are "better" because they can be tailored to the individual buyer (or just have more "character").

Human whims are faddish. The smart money will always be on getting a piece of the action every time the fad pendulum swings.

Re:YOU are labor. (1)

ebno-10db (1459097) | about 8 months ago | (#44770183)

Human whims are faddish.

Is it a fad that someone buying a box of nails will choose the 100% automation produced variety, instead of paying 100x as much for the hand produced variety we used to have? How about people buying pipe to plumb a house, or do you think that indoor plumbing is a fad? How about electric lights. Are you betting on candles or kerosene lamps replacing them?

Re:YOU are labor. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#44770501)

Some products are more commoditized than others. Nails might be one, though there are people who will shell out for hand forged nails, as there are those who don't plumb or illuminate their home with whatever is on sale at the local home improvement chain.

For an obvious example, I bet you buy all of your clothes for the lowest possible price. Yet, I am sure you are also aware that millions of other people pay many times the price for functionally equivalent items based on their own perception of what makes clothes valuable. You can buy jeans for $15 at Walmart. Yet there is a thriving industry that supplies hand-sewn jeans, sometimes of hand woven denim, for 20X the price and up. There are people who pay $300 for jeans exactly because they are made as close as possible to the "hand produced variety we used to have".

Not everyone is a reflexive, lowest-common-denominator consumer.

Re:YOU are labor. (1)

ebno-10db (1459097) | about 8 months ago | (#44770913)

there are people who will shell out for hand forged nails

P.T. Barnum was right.

there are those who don't plumb or illuminate their home with whatever is on sale at the local home improvement chain

Plumbing, they don't use copper or PEX? What do they use, hand formed lead just like the Romans did?

Are they also avoiding the use of electric light bulbs, or do they use some magical light bulbs for 100x the price? Great business idea: hand blown lightbulbs! So old fashioned, not even Edison did it that way.

I bet you buy all of your clothes for the lowest possible price

You lose - pay up.

millions of other people pay many times the price for functionally equivalent items based on their own perception of what makes clothes valuable

Most often that perception of value comes from a name that, through clever marketing, has some magic aura about it.

There are people who pay $300 for jeans exactly because they are made as close as possible to the "hand produced variety we used to have".

The only time jeans were made from hand woven denim is in some fool's fevered ahistorical imagination. Levi Strauss started making them in 1853, by which time machine spinning and weaving were nearly universal. Even the sewing machine was widely used.

As for $300, those must be cheapos. Here are some for $2,000: http://www.rawrdenim.com/2011/03/momotaro-jeans-hand-woven-2000-dollars/ [rawrdenim.com] Sorry I can't afford them, but if there's a market, it's obvious some people just have too much money.

Not everyone is a reflexive, lowest-common-denominator consumer.

So you're assuming that anything which isn't "hand made" is of poor quality. Not only is it often just the opposite (quality often improves through automation), but if it wasn't for all that shoddy stuff we've been making since the beginning of the industrial revolution, most people would live in such a way that they'd envy today's poor.

Re:Labor will never be what it was (1)

Emperor Shaddam IV (199709) | about 8 months ago | (#44769951)

Yeap,
That's why they manufacture BMW's in South Carolina and BMW has expanded the plant and hired more workers over the years. Last time I took a tour of the facility, they were making all the X3's, X5's, and X6's for the world market, including the ones being sold in Asia.

Yeap, we can't compete with anyone.

Re:Labor will never be what it was (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#44773645)

American management can't compete with executives from China, India, Vietnam, etc. The only way for American management to keep their luxury SUVs at all is to replace clueless management with managers promoted from places outside of the HR approved hiring pool. If they didn't do that then all of the unproductive management jobs (including the higher end executive jobs) would be gone. This has greatly reduced the need for talentless management and greatly increases demand for people who can do actual work.

Fortunately my job is to hunt down managers and dress them like turkeys, integrate different managers into the circus, and design the underlying management processing plants that recycle their raw resources into something useful to the rest of society. So far it's been a fun unintentional career path.

Re:Labor will never be what it was (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#44775327)

American laborers can't compete with labor from China, India, Vietnam, etc.

That's what the big corporations want you to believe, anyway, but there's no real evidence that it's true.

In the real world, workers have to eat. The caloric demands of an Indian or Malay family do not differ radically from those of an American family (which probably has fewer children). In the real world, goods have to be sent to market. The further the distance traveled, and the less polluting the method of transport, the more it costs.

Thus locally produced goods always outcompete foreign goods, unless foreign workers and the environment are both being abused.

So, right now, the big corps are abusing foreigners and the environment in order to drive local labor costs down and solidify their hold on political power.

It's all about pulling the rug out from under the US working class. [conceptualguerilla.com] . There's no truth in the idea that American labor can't compete in a fair market; that's a toxic meme.

Nice Astroturf (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#44768489)

I am an engineer at a fairly modern furniture plant.

ATS hires desperate displaced maintenance workers who have acquired years of PLC and high-speed machine skills, and works them like temps at temp wages. Their lack of "ownership", i.e. giving a damn about the plant, unfamiliarity, and constant turnover lead to much higher downtime. No one blames the workers for moving on to greener pastures at the first chance.

I defy you to find one non-managerial ATS technician who has been with them for more than two years. The revolving door never stops spinning.

After our 3-year contract with ATS expired, we re-hired an in-house crew again. Lesson learned.

Re:Nice Astroturf (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#44768885)

They also tend to blame production delays on everything BUT their poor maintenance plans.
Any of the high end stuff is handled by the companies staff and not ATS usually.

day and night (1)

cascadingstylesheet (140919) | about 8 months ago | (#44768539)

Around 2000, I was in an auto parts plant.

There was literally a line on the floor ... on one side could have been a scene from the 1950s (or maybe even the 1930s): everything was dirty, crowded, dense with machinery and workers who looked pretty much as Roblimo described.

On the other side of the line, everything was new, clean, the machines were spaced farther apart, and there were eerily few workers, just a few techs calmly standing at control panels tweaking or monitoring things.

I never did find out what the deal was ... I was only there to give training on a piece of equipment on the new side. Was weird and a stark contrast, though. Had to be pretty demoralizing in more ways than one for the guys on the "old" side, too.

Re:day and night (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#44769469)

Just knowing that industry a little, I would think that one half of the plant was staffed by union workers and the other half was non-union, but I don't want hazard a guess about which side was which...

So what? Dumb people need to die? (2, Informative)

erroneus (253617) | about 8 months ago | (#44768549)

The idea that "sure, robotics put dozens of people out of work, but robots need technicians to maintain them" is absurd. Not that machines don't need maintenance, but that the number of people displaced approaches the number of people needed to maintain machines. And even if that WERE the case (which is most certainly isn't) then surely we have to face that most people should realize that being a tech isn't something everyone can do effectively. This leaves people who are not technically inclined and not lucky enough to be trained and/or have talent in other areas, to do what? Career criminal? Lifetime welfare recipient? Both?

Bottom line? The more people out of work, the bigger the tax burden on those remaining who have income or have a job. I don't quite advocate not modernizing or anything like that, so this rant is actually more about outsourcing labor than new labor for in-sourced robotics. But I think there is a lot going on here that is harming good people who just don't have ability. That's kind of sad. Some could call it evolution except that we're doing it in reverse -- the people who don't have jobs and stuff end up having more babies than those with ability and jobs and money.

So what are we breeding here?

Re:So what? Dumb people need to die? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#44768721)

Don't worry I'm sure the US social support net will keep everything in...

Well I'm sure that the people still working won't end up crippled by high tax....

And that the really wealthy won't just emigrate elsewh...

Huh

Re:So what? Dumb people need to die? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#44768875)

Easy, we're making cars / parts more affordable. Shut up and take my money!

Re:So what? Dumb people need to die? (1)

ebno-10db (1459097) | about 8 months ago | (#44769255)

So what are we breeding here?

Do you believe in eugenics?

Re:So what? Dumb people need to die? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#44771329)

When most of the advocates you find on the Internet are obese, socially retarded people? No, not really.

Re:So what? Dumb people need to die? (1)

fa2k (881632) | about 8 months ago | (#44773393)

This leaves people who are not technically inclined and not lucky enough to be trained and/or have talent in other areas, to do what? Career criminal? Lifetime welfare recipient? Both?

We seem to find things to do even when all needs are met, some possible examples are
-Farming gold in WoW, etc
-Farming IRL for locally grown food using outdated non-industrial methods
-Organising concerts and other entertainment events
-Theme parks (could be greatly expanded)

Even so, the economic system should be adjusted when appropriate, and the extra jobs above are just a transition period. This will happen when it's blindingly obvious that not everyone has to do a full day's work to sustain humanity. There still needs to be a way to motivate the techs, but it's quite possible that they would do it for free.

The idea that the majority can't contribute anything significant to society, and may just as well do nothing, is a psychological challenge. The economics can be worked out, but we may indeed see a wave of crime just so people have something to do

I'm reminded of this story (2)

Krishnoid (984597) | about 8 months ago | (#44768791)

Manna [marshallbrain.com] , by Marshall Brain. The article description is kind of a point-in-time description, but this story gives a good idea of a couple possible futures for increased robot involvement in businesses.

Re:I'm reminded of this story (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#44770323)

One thing is for sure --- it will be used to fuck ordinary people over somehow. That is the way of state capitalism, after all.

Re:I'm reminded of this story (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#44770795)

Having read the story, I wonder... did Burt and Jacob really find 'utopia' or did their perceptions merely enter The Matrix? Nothing in the story allows any perspective to tell the difference.

Perhaps this was Brain's point:
If Jacob actually built the house, then he is free and living in a utopia.
If Manna allowed Jacob to perceive himself as the builder of the house, then he is not free and is not living in a real utopia - he is living in The Matrix and is a slave.

The worst kind of slavery is one where the slaves think they are actually free (slavery is freedom - 1984). Then again, perhaps slavery is a state of mind. If you don't think of yourself as a slave, are you really a slave?

The human condition seems to be, in a nutshell, powerful minorities using whatever they can to convince majorities that the answer is 'yes'.

What, really? (1)

roc97007 (608802) | about 8 months ago | (#44770671)

> and may offer a clue as to why some types of industry are bringing their manufacturing operations back to the U.S. from low-wage countries in order to increase efficiency.

From what I've seen, how could it not? Price, efficiency, quality, pick two.

To Anyone Thinking About Industrial IT (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#44773833)

I came over to Industrial IT after spending 8 years working in 2 NOC's at 2 different ISP's. This kind of work is very fulfilling no matter where I've been and anyone who wants to find stable, but admittedly much harder work, will love this field of IT. The big upsides are this:

- Starting at 3:30pm most people leave. This means that the last 1.5hrs of my day to get work done with no one contacting me. This has been the case at multiple jobs.
- My pay and vacation time are amazingly better than any other industry. My onsite schedule and hours are completely under my control.
- People who do physical labor all day are more apt to be solution driven. I've noticed that office people tend to do a lot of busy work and if they have a problem they freak out but people on the floor use there computers like any other tool so when it breaks they just shrug it off and say i'll write it down on this notepad till you get it fixed and they go back to work.
- I've never had problems with getting respect from management. When I've worked on larger IT staffs I've been underpaid, overworked, and woken up all hours of the night from oncall because my employers knew they had other parts of the staff they could elevate into my job if I ever left.
- It's much more hands on with a wider range of hardware. I've rebuilt 30yr old line printers, updated Twin-ax networks, soldered 3d holographic scanners, helped troubleshoot plc's and allen bradley networking equiment, CNC management systems, the list goes on. This is on top of the the easy stuff like Cisco, Windows Server, AS/400, Exchange and Linux.

The downside is this. I've had to work in freezers that were -10 degrees, food processing plants that have so much chlorine on the walls you have to wear gloves or you'll mess your hands up, stinky plastic/rubber recycling plants, and into hot oily factories that manufacture metal parts. So the range of environments can get pretty nasty and in some cases can be a bit of a nightmare for your computers but the challenge is worth the effort.

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