Robots won’t take your job—they’ll help make room…

Robots won’t take your job—they’ll help make room…

Apr 21, 2017

“Robots won’t take your job—they’ll help make room for meaningful work instead” By TL Andrews, Quartz Unencumbered by the prospect of re-election, outgoing presidents tend to use their final speeches to candidly warn against threats they believe to be metastasizing in society. For example, George Washington spoke of the ills of hyper-partisanship and excessive debt. Dwight Eisenhower denounced the waxing power of the “military industrial complex.” President Barack Obama singled out an economic peril in his otherwise doggedly hopeful final address in Chicago: “The next wave of economic dislocations won’t come from overseas,” he said. “It will come from the relentless pace of automation that makes a lot of good, middle-class jobs obsolete.” Obama articulated a fear felt by many around the world: That all our jobs will eventually be done by robots. Research backs this fear: One study found that automation will threaten at least 47% of jobs in America and up to 85% in the rest of the world. But a number of economists are beginning to argue that this view of automation excludes a lot of the story. Putting automation in context To simply argue that automation is going to gobble up jobs ignores the potential for productivity gains. The Business Harvard Review found that the IT revolution led to 0.6% labor productivity growth and 1% of overall growth in Europe, the US, and Japan between 1995 and 2005. “It all hinges on demand,” says Jim Bessen, professor of economics at Boston University. If the productivity gains are enough to significantly boost demand, then job growth may be the result. This is especially true when new technologies create jobs that simply did not exist before, such as social-media managers. In those cases, any jobs created will make a net contribution to the labor market. Though automation will cost some jobs, it will also create many others. A case in point is the rollout of ATMs in the US. Introduced in the 1970s, the number of ATMs increased from 100,000 to 400,000 between 1995 and 2010. Running an ATM is cheaper than paying a teller’s salary, so as ATMs became more numerous relative to tellers, the overall cost of each bank branch came down. As it became cheaper to operate a...

The long, rough ride ahead for ‘Made in America’

The long, rough ride ahead for ‘Made in America’

Apr 17, 2017

By Nick Carey, Reuters Mini motorcycle and go-kart maker Monster Moto made a big bet on U.S. manufacturing by moving assembly to this Louisiana town in 2016 from China. But it will be a long ride before it can stamp its products “Made in USA.” The loss of nearly one out four U.S. factories in the last two decades means parts for its bike frames and engines must be purchased in China, where the manufacturing supply chain moved years ago. “There’s just no way to source parts in America right now,” said Monster Moto Chief Executive Alex Keechle during a tour of the company’s assembly plant. “But by planting the flag here, we believe suppliers will follow.” Monster Moto’s experience is an example of the obstacles American companies face as they, along with President Donald Trump, try to rebuild American manufacturing. U.S. automakers and their suppliers, for example, have already invested billions in plants abroad and would face an expensive and time-consuming transition to buy thousands of American-made parts if President Trump’s proposed “border tax” on imported goods were to become law. When companies reshore assembly to U.S. soil – in Monster Moto’s case that took two years to find a location and negotiate support from local and state officials – they are betting their demand will create a local supply chain that currently does not exist. For now, finding U.S.-based suppliers “remains one of the top challenges across our supplier base,” said Cindi Marsiglio, Wal-Mart Stores Inc’s (WMT.N) vice president for U.S. manufacturing and sourcing. Wal-Mart partnered with Monster Moto and several other U.S. companies in a drive to increase spending on American-made goods by $250 billion by 2023 in response to consumer demand for American-made goods. Their experience has shown Americans’ patriotic shopping habits have limits, namely when it comes to price. Take Monster Moto’s bikes, which sell for between $249 to $749. Keechle, the CEO, says he can’t raise those prices for fear his price sensitive prospective customers will turn to less expensive rivals made in China. “Consumers won’t give you a free pass just because you put ‘Made in USA’ on the box,” Keechle says. “You have to remain price...

New Design Could Spur Proliferation of LiDAR Sensors for…

New Design Could Spur Proliferation of LiDAR Sensors for…

Mar 21, 2017

“New Design Could Spur Proliferation of LiDAR Sensors for Autonomous Vehicles” By Design-2-Part Magazine MORGAN HILL, Calif.— Velodyne LiDAR Inc., a prominent developer of light, detection and ranging (LiDAR) technology, has developed a design for a solid-state LiDAR sensor that reportedly makes the sensors less expensive, easier to integrate due to their smaller size, and more reliable as a result of fewer moving parts. The design, which can be integrated in Velodyne LiDAR’s existing Puck form factors, is reported to yield a subsystem cost of under $50 U.S. when sold in high-volume manufacturing scale. Velodyne LiDAR (www.velodynelidar.com) is optimistic that the technology will spur proliferation of LiDAR sensors in multiple industry sectors, including autonomous vehicles, ridesharing, 3D mapping, and drones. “Our new design approach creates a true solid-state LiDAR sensor, while significantly raising the bar as to what can be expected from LiDAR sensors as far as cost, size, and reliability,” said David Hall, founder and CEO of Velodyne LiDAR, in a company release. “Together with our customers and partners, we strive to create a world where LiDAR sensors increase safety and freedom for people everywhere, and this new design is a huge step in that direction.” Velodyne LiDAR’s new approach to the development of solid-state LiDAR sensors reflects the application of a monolithic gallium nitride (GaN) integrated circuit, developed in partnership with Efficient Power Conversion (EPC). The design consolidates components and is said to result in significant advances in sensor miniaturization, reliability, and cost reduction. At less than 4mm square, each integrated circuit is of a size that “just covers George Washington’s nose on the U.S. quarter,” according to Velodyne LiDAR.   “As LiDAR technology continues to gain widespread adoption, GaN technology brings higher performance, resulting in higher image resolution, all while offering enhanced integration of key functions that ultimately lead to reduced overall cost for LiDAR-based system solutions,” said Dr. Alex Lidow, CEO and co-founder of Efficient Power Conversion Corporation, in the release. Velodyne LiDAR’s design is currently being tested and integrated into future products. The company expects to announce a release date sometime in 2017. “Velodyne’s decades of LiDAR expertise places it in the best position to define and develop power-...

Factory moves from China to U.S. with help from robot…

Factory moves from China to U.S. with help from robot…

Feb 23, 2017

  “Factory moves from China to U.S. with help from robot workforce”   Automation has contributed to the declining U.S. manufacturing workforce. But as Mark Strassmann reports, now technology may help factories move back to the U.S.  ...

How A 10-Minute Conversation With A Machine Saved…

How A 10-Minute Conversation With A Machine Saved…

Jan 20, 2017

“How A 10-Minute Conversation With A Machine Saved $12 Million” By Colin Paris, Manufacturing.net A call comes through on my tablet. It’s a familiar digital voice letting me know that one of GE’s power generation turbines installed at a utility customer’s power plant was experiencing a change in its operating profile. This change was causing a critical part to wear more rapidly than usual. It would not necessarily cause a problem today, explains the caller, or even in the coming months. But further down the line, it could become an issue that would reduce the overall performance of the power plant and lead to more expensive repairs. That voice on the other end of the line is not a human operator. It is the turbine’s Digital Twin, an exact digital replica of the physical machine built with artificial intelligence algorithms that allow it to see, think and act just like human beings do. In my ten- minute conversation with this Digital Twin, we figure out a solution that would save $12 million for the customer with a simple adjustment in how the turbine operates. The drop-off in performance and higher repair costs will be avoided thanks to a few simple changes the Twin itself recommended based on its assessment of historical data, other turbines in this fleet, and its deep knowledge of the physical stress on the turbine in question. The Internet ushered in the world of connectedness on a level no one had previously imagined. Today, that connectedness has spread from human-to-human, to human-to-machine, to machine-to-machine, and we’ve given it a new name – the Internet of Things. We see the IoT in the home, when we talk to Amazon Echo’s Alexa or to Google and ask them for information or to perform a simple task. To understand those questions and requests, Alexa uses a dictionary that is gained from Wikipedia – and its capabilities are developing quickly, since much of the digital infrastructure of the consumer IoT is already in place. The industrial IoT is developing even quicker, despite exponentially higher technological and regulatory complexities. Industrial devices – like a power generation turbine, a jet engine, a locomotive, or an MRI machine...