Made in America: The 33 Cent Chinese Arkansas T-Shirt

Posted on October 3, 2017

Recently my colleague Marco Chan shared an extraordinary story that puts a new slant on the public discussion about robotics, China, outsourcing and the future of jobs.  According to this Bloomberg Business Week story,  a Chinese manufacturer, Tianyuan Garments Co., is investing $20 million to open a plant in Little Rock that will utilize robots developed by a Georgia company, Software Automation, to manufacture T-Shirts at a cost of 33 cents per shirt.  Each SEWBOT™ workline is capable of spitting out a T-Shirt every 26 seconds.  Human workers don’t stand a chance against such competition, no matter how low a wage rate they are willing to accept.

We’re in a period of profound change as digital technologies promise to transform virtually every industry globally.  In manufacturing this rapidly accelerating transformation will impact employers and employees alike.  PWC recently estimated that 38% of U.S. jobs could be taken by robots by 2030.  Futurists like Martin Ford and even well-known industrialists like Elon Musk have begun to argue that we need to consider adoption of a Universal Basic Income to address a world in which machines and artificial intelligence have replaced human beings in a large part of the economy.

For those that fear the consequences of automation, the connection has been broken between technological advance and the creation of new higher skilled jobs categories to replace the old lower skilled jobs.  I have more confidence that a dynamic economy will continue to provide opportunities for our citizens, creating currently unimaginable job categories for those willing and able to adapt.  Lifetime learning has become a survival skill in our society, opening up new business opportunities in education and training and likely creating hundreds of thousands of jobs in the process.

At the FOCUS Investment Banking Advanced Manufacturing & Automation Team we spend our time addressing … read the rest

Is Industry 4.0 the New DotCom Boom?

Posted on April 3, 2017

Fear stalks the land.  The Robot Apocalypse is nigh, destined to steal our jobs and our future.  Worse yet the machines are made elsewhere (Germany, Japan, even China) and America is being left behind in the race for manufacturing prowess.

We’ve heard this story before.  In the late 1980s, the U. S. computer memory industry had been decimated by Japanese and Korean competition.  To the Cassandras, this meant that the U.S. had forever lost the global economic race and was destined to become a second-rate power.

Nothing could have been further from the truth.  The prerequisites for U.S. global dominance of the technology world were already in place.  Within a few years, U.S. prowess in personal computers, microprocessors, and digital networking would lead to a capital investment boom and a stock market bubble not experienced since the 1920s.  Stock market fluctuations notwithstanding, the global growth of the Internet has not abated since.

For all its impact, the Internet has touched only a relatively small portion of human existence, focused primarily on media, entertainment, telecom and more recently retailing and finance.  The larger world in which we live, the world of things and physical interactions has, until now, been only lightly touched.  But that is going to change – and change in a huge way.

Imagine Amazon on Steroids

The world of digital automation is at the same stage as the internet in 1993, when the Mosaic browser was introduced and we first discovered the wonders of the World Wide Web.  The technologies are in place for a boom that will transform the global economy and, in the process, create new opportunities for better jobs and better lives.  And once again the U.S. is asserting its leadership role in developing the critical technologies.

Today Amazon utilizes highly advanced predictive analytics and automation tools that plan … read the rest