Production Machining

NOV 2018

Production Machining - Your access to the precision machining industrial buyer.

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rguments for and against automation have not changed over the decades, but companies that are open to automation are thriving. utomation Helps Businesses Gro CONTRIBUTOR Ronnie Vuine is CEO and founder of Micropsi- Industries, a robotics soware company headquartered in Berlin, Germany. Contact: By Ronnie Vuine hen driving through southern Germany on a hot summer day in 2018, the prosperity of the region appears to be indestructible. ese people have been hard at work for generations. ey're good at what they do. ey like to make things and make them well. ey're serious about innovation in hundreds—and have built thousands of small- and medium-sized companies—and some big ones. ings are under control. e South's wealth is manifest, inequality is comparatively low, trust in institu- tions is high, and workers and management still mostly trust each other. People are well-educated, the vocational training system works as well as the high schools. One Sunday afternoon this summer, when I entered the small Bavarian town of Neuburg, about half of the local population appeared to be happily taking a bath in the Danube, the local …re brigade watching over them. e apocalypse, decidedly, was not happening here. But I had reasons to foster gloomy thoughts about whether any of this is going to be in danger anytime soon. First, prophets of doom are everywhere these days. Second, I work in the automation industry. What I do …ts one of the prophets' narra- tives: I enable robots to perform tasks that so far only humans could do. e type of automation my company o‰ers will put everyone out of work, say the prophets of doom. Was I a cynic to join Neuburg's super- relaxed citywide summer swim? I don't think I was. On the contrary, to me, automation is what made it possible. Whether we need to worry about automation is not a new debate, neither in the U.S. nor in Germany. As early as 1962, Der Spiegel, Germany's leading newsweekly, reported on the dangers of automation, talking of "the dead halls"—factories with no humans left in them, while telling stories of awesome productivity gains in the same piece. Going further back, there's "is is Automation," a 1955 educational …lm by GE on advances in automation in manufacturing and how it already helped to create jobs. Some 60 years later, key themes in the movie—the enthu- siasm and the worries—all sounds stunningly familiar. Ever since production automation came to be, engineers and managers have argued that producing more, at lower cost and with better quality, will bene…t everyone while allowing workers to move from repetitive manual labor to managing complexity: use their hands less and use their brains more. e press, looking for the dramatic angle, have always argued that people will be put out of work, period, as any substitution of jobs happens slowly and over generations. Both of these stories are true. What convinces me is that the region's factories are amongst the most thoroughly automated on the planet. Not far from Neuburg, just a day's boat journey up the Danube, is Ingolstadt, home of Audi. I've done business with Audi, and I've seen its production lines. It's not that Audi employees went on a big strike to protect their jobs when robotic automation became a major thing in the 1970s. ey decided the robots were instrumental in building better cars, hence were to be welcomed. ey've done well ever since. On the other hand, regions that emphasized protecting workers from e™ciency gains through automation (and better management techniques) seem to have done less well. e British industrial base is still strong, but has clearly su‰ered in the 1970s and never fully recovered. British car companies, with a few niche exceptions, are mere shadows of their former selves. ey still make cars, but they don't do it the British Leyland way anymore. ey do it the BMW and the Ford way. My takeaway from these observations: the same anti- and pro-automation arguments have not changed over the decades. But, historically, those who automate their processes are able to achieve something that those who don't automate have di™culty doing—thrive. e ant-automation model—where everyone makes a bit of everything, slightly worse and more expensive than it could be done through automation—may not be ideal. Automate. Make whatever you make as good as you can possibly make it. en watch them come and buy. I am actually convinced automation isn't putting my Bavarian friends out of work. Automation allows them to continue to enjoy their beers on the banks of the Danube—and not have to worry about an apocalypse. LST ORD 48 PRODUCTION MCHINING :: NOVEMBER 2018

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