News / Economy

Robots Help US Manufacturers Compete With China

Brian Padden
After decades of losing jobs to China and other low wage countries, the manufacturing sector in the United States is now expanding -- thanks in large part to the integration of advanced technology into production processes.  While this development has so far sparked only a modest increase in employment, Some American manufacturers are optimistic that technology will create more highly skilled jobs for those workers being replaced by robots.

In what may be the beginning of a new trend in American manufacturing, Sunit Saxena recently moved his production operation from China to the United States.

“Just like everyone else we started in China because the cost of labor was low but then by the time we started and as we went further down this path they started raising the rates on us in China,” Saxena said.

Saxena is the CEO of Altierre Digital Retail in San Jose, California.  The company makes digital price displays and signs for retail stores that can be updated from a computer.

Altierre now employs between 50 and 60 workers, fewer than it used to in China, and pays them about $10.00 an hour.  Using new electronic testing stations, Saxena says the company has doubled productivity -- making it cost-competitive with China.  The company is planning to increase automation -- not to replace all workers but to make labor an insignificant part of overall production costs.

“We can now increase our capacity and therefore we can get a lot more business, a lot more processing capability and small square footage with less number of people and make the people that we have way more productive than we could in the Far East,” Saxena said.

Earthbound Farm, one of the largest U.S. producers of organic foods, is also using technology to increase productivity.  It recently deployed automated robots to pack its products.  Each robot does the job that four workers used to do.  But company Vice President Will Daniels says no one here has lost a job to technology.

“Instead of replacing those workers we’re actually providing them with a higher skill set.  Those folks who were working on the line packing that product, where our robots are for example, are now actually operating the machines,” Daniels said.

Up to now, automation technology has been used mostly on tasks that require identical and repetitive motion.  But technology developers like Troy Straszheim are building robots with new capabilities.  

“The kinds of problems that are well solved in the industry today are ones that don’t involve a whole lot of thinking on the part of the robot or a whole lot of seeing. Therefore we are working on the eyes and brains for these robots,” Straszheim said.

Using cameras and sensors, Straszheim is developing machines that can recognize and select specific shapes -- creating robots that, in this case, could be used at loading docks and shipyards.

These technological innovations are helping U.S. manufacturing expand for the first time in a decade.  And industry officials say automation will lead to more high skilled jobs and higher pay for workers over time as companies expand their operations in America.

You May Like

Analyst: Joint-Arab Military Force Poses Perilous Challenge

Although international forces are desperately needed to counter the threat of the Islamic State group, analysts say conflicting alliances could escalate fighting More

Asia’s Middle Class Changes Demand for Wheat Grain Exporters

Changes in tastes and diets are boon for wheat exporters such as Australia and the United States More

S. African Comedian Taking Over Popular TV Show

Mixed-race comedian Trevor Noah, who is loved for his edgy jibes about race and language, is taking the helm from Jon Stewart at The Daily Show in US More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: Peter from: USA
February 22, 2013 11:27 AM
As if China is not using Robots too?
In Response

by: Ian from: USA
February 22, 2013 5:25 PM
I agree with you, further more the greedy corporations will transfer the new technology to China as before .
Same old story, just rewrite with less chinese workers . Americans still lose jobs and maybe chinese workers will lose jobsas well because the companies will need less

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Film Tells Story of Musicians in Mali Threatened by Jihadistsi
X
Greg Flakus
March 30, 2015 6:48 PM
At this year's annual South by Southwest film and music festival in Austin, Texas, some musicians from Mali were on hand to promote a film about how their lives were upturned by jihadists who destroyed ancient treasures in the city of Timbuktu and prohibited anyone from playing music under threat of death. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Austin, some are afraid to return to their hometowns even though the jihadists are no longer in control there.
Video

Video Film Tells Story of Musicians in Mali Threatened by Jihadists

At this year's annual South by Southwest film and music festival in Austin, Texas, some musicians from Mali were on hand to promote a film about how their lives were upturned by jihadists who destroyed ancient treasures in the city of Timbuktu and prohibited anyone from playing music under threat of death. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Austin, some are afraid to return to their hometowns even though the jihadists are no longer in control there.
Video

Video With Coalition Airstrikes, Iraq Entering 'Last Page' of IS Battle

American warplanes joined Iraq's battle against the so-called 'Islamic State' in northern Iraq late Wednesday, as Iraqi ground troops launched a massive assault on Tikrit. Analysts say the offensive could take the coalition a step further towards Mosul, the largest city held by Islamic State forces. Others say it could also deepen already-dangerous sectarian tensions in the region. VOA's Heather Murdock has more from Cairo.
Video

Video Philippines Wants Tourists Spending Money at New Casinos

Tourism is a multi-billion dollar industry in the Philippines. Close to five million foreign visitors traveled there last year, perhaps lured by the country’s tropical beaches. But Jason Strother reports from Manila that the country hopes to entice more travelers to stay indoors and spend money inside new casinos.
Video

Video Civilian Casualties Push Men to Join Rebels in Ukraine

The continued fighting in eastern Ukraine and the shelling of civilian neighborhoods seem to be pushing more men to join the separatist fighters. Many of the new recruits are residents of Ukraine made bitter by new grievances, as well as old. VOA's Patrick Wells reports.
Video

Video Islamic State Prisoners Talk of Curiosity, God, Regret

Islamic State fighter, a prisoner of Kurdish YPG forces, asked his family asking for forgiveness: "I destroyed myself and I destroyed them along with me." The Syrian youth was one of two detainees who spoke to VOA’s Kurdish Service about the path they chose; their names have been changed and identifying details obscured. VOA's Zana Omer reports.
Video

Video Germanwings Findings Raise Issue of Psychological Testing for Pilots

More is being discovered about the co-pilot in the crash of Germanwings Flight 9525 in the French Alps. Investigators say he was hiding a medical condition, raising questions about the mental qualifications of pilots. VOA's Carolyn Presutti reports.
Video

Video Hi-tech Motorbike Helmet's Goal: Improve Road Safety

In cities with heavily congested traffic, people can get around much faster on a motorcycle than in a car. But a rider who is not sure of his route may have to stop to look at the map or consult a GPS. A Russian start-up company is working to make navigation easier for motorcyclists. Designers at Moscow-based LiveMap are developing a smart helmet with a built-in navigation system, head-mounted display and voice recognition. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video DOJ: Illinois National Guard Soldier Tried to Join ISIS

U.S. federal law enforcement agents arrested two suburban Chicago men accused of trying to join ISIS overseas, while also plotting attacks in the United States. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports from the Midwest state of Illinois, one of those arrested is a soldier of the Illinois National Guard.
Video

Video New Wheelchair Is Easier to Use, Increases Mobility

Traditional push-rim wheelchairs create a lot of stress for arm, shoulder and neck muscles and joints. A redesigned chair, based on readily available bicycle technology, radically increases mobility while reducing the physical effort. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grieving

Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.
Video

Video Cambodian Land Grabs Threaten Traditional Communities

Indigenous communities in Cambodia's Ratanakiri province say the government’s economic land concession policy is taking away their land and traditional way of life, making many fear that their identity will soon be lost. Local authorities, though, have denied this is the case. VOA's Say Mony went to investigate and filed this report, narrated by Colin Lovett.
Video

Video Space Program Status Disappoints 'Last Man on the Moon'

One of the films that drew big crowds last week at the annual South by Southwest festival in Austin, Texas, tells the story of the last human being to stand on the moon, U.S. astronaut Eugene Cernan. It has been 42 years since Cernan returned from the moon and he laments that no one else has gone there since. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports.

VOA Blogs

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More

World Currencies

EUR
USD
0.9220
JPY
USD
119.88
GBP
USD
0.6757
CAD
USD
1.2640
INR
USD
62.626

Rates may not be current.