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Automation Is a Catalyst for American Steel Jobs, Not a Barrier

By Camille Grayson
on April 12, 2019

There’s a growing misconception that automation will reduce or completely erase American steel manufacturing jobs. While robots might be the villains in some Hollywood movies, they’re actually the good guys in the steel industry.

In reality, automation is simply changing — and in many cases improving — the way these jobs are done, not getting rid of them.

Automation isn’t to blame for the past
Between 2000 and 2009, 6 million U.S. manufacturing jobs disappeared. At the same time, automation technology and the Internet evolved at an incredible pace. It seems logical to connect those dots and blame the robots for the labor drop-off.

However, a major development in international trade had more of an impact on jobs than industrial automation. In 2001, China joined the World Trade Organization, and its exports to the United States increased significantly. In other words, robots weren’t stealing American manufacturing jobs — the jobs were being offshored overseas due to lower labor costs for companies.

Automation makes domestic manufacturing more competitive
There’s a high level of demand for infrastructure projects, but a lower supply of people and resources to get these jobs done. This is where automation can help.

Automation can increase the efficiency and speed at which manufacturers complete projects, and it will help them increase productivity. This doesn’t mean there will be a shortage of work. Thanks to automation, companies will be able to take on a higher number of projects and employ more people on the same budget. History backs this notion, too. From 1947 to 1973, U.S. labor productivity increased at an average pace of 3% per year as technology evolved.

Automation can help American steel manufacturers increase productivity and stay competitive while increasing job opportunities for steel workers.

Automation creates job opportunity
Some obsolete jobs could disappear due to automation, but the vast majority of manufacturing jobs aren’t going anywhere. They’re just becoming more specialized. Adapting to technology could lead to career advancement, enhanced problem-solving skills and project management opportunities.

Innovation is inevitable. But embracing automation — not blaming it — could lead to an even brighter future for American steel manufacturers. There are plenty of great reasons to choose American Metal, and the emergence of technology is certainly one of them.