Thursday, July 28, 2011

Businesses use more automation, fewer workers

As more Americans are getting unemployed, one thing is clear: A lot of companies are doing just fine, with fewer workers. They're going automated. 

Ron Baysden owns a Georgia plant that is the picture of high-tech manufacturing. Robots do much of the welding, lasers cut through sheets of steel, and computers track productivity.What you don't see is a lot of workers.

Baysden's family-run Impulse Manufacturing makes customized steel parts for everything from tractors to industrial refrigeration systems. When the recession hit, orders dried up and the company laid off nearly half of its 170 workers. Now, business is booming. The workforce is back up to 177 and profits are up too by 60 percent. Baysden plans to spend $1.5 million of that profit on new technology and none on new jobs. 

The technology is proving its worth for Baysden. For example, a laser can churn out one part in 30 seconds -- work that used to take 18 men and 30 minutes to complete. "A lot of my competitors did not survive 2009," Baysden said. "We survived because we spent a lot of money and investments in technology."

According to the Bureau of Economic Analysis, over the past two years, company spending on employees has only grown by four percent -- a sharp contrast to the 25 percent increase being spent on new technology. The biggest question is, "What happens to all those people who don't have jobs now?"


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