WSJ – Humans are Winning the Battle with Robots


  • robots may speed production, but the machines require a substantial investment that risks being wasted if the economy slumps
  • “We see in U.S. manufacturing a race between technology and human capital,” Stanford University economist Nicholas Bloom said
    • car maker Tesla Inc. are racing to automate almost every process on the factory floor
    •  many executives are reluctant to sink investments in equipment that “will be hard to reverse.”
  •  continue to see innovation in fields that are traditionally dependent on people.
    •  grocery stores, are experimenting with robots.
      • it could take decades, though, for these initiatives to meaningfully alter the employment picture
  • Robotics spending is forecast to equal $90 billion in 2018, according to researcher International Data Corp
    • Mainly aimed at industrial or manufacturing uses
    • but it is only a sliver of the nearly $3 trillion committed to capital investment
  • John Van Reenen, Massachusetts Institute of Technology economics professor, said executives in many industries —including health care and retailing—aren’t sold on the technical revolution.
    • “There is a big debate on whether robots are really delivering on the productivity benefits they might promise.”
  • Ford Motor Co.’s president of global operations, Joe Hinrichs, said a lot of industrial automation happened several decades ago.
    • companies trying to “optimize how they use people” rather than install more machines.
    • Artificial intelligence is now integrated into the final inspection lines to boost quality. But skilled workers are needed to interact with the AI tools
  • After the [financial] crisis, sectors such as financial services companies reacted to weak demand and uncertainty by holding back investment,
    • driving capital-intensity growth down to the lowest rates since World War II,” a report published this year by McKinsey & Co.
    • Bureau of Economic Analysis reported nonresidential fixed investments had increased at an 11.5% annual rate

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