Pawtucket Times

We need reshoring, re­train­ing pro­grams

- By KATE MARCELLINO, RICKY FINNIGAN, ERIC FLYNN and CODY STERN

Over the past 10 years, tech­nol­ogy has de­vel­oped at a sig­nif­i­cant rate, and progress does not seem to be slow­ing down. As a re­sult, in­dus­tries all over the world have been im­pacted by the dy­namic changes to busi­ness en­vi­ron­ments. Will we adapt or get left be­hind? Tech­no­log­i­cal ad­vance­ments have al­lowed man­u­fac­tur­ing firms in the United States to au­to­mate operations and out­source la­bor. How­ever, as these com­pa­nies rushed to cap­i­tal­ize on global opportunit­ies, they stripped over five mil­lion peo­ple of their jobs. Man­ual work­ers in Amer­ica have been replaced by ro­bots, and cor­po­ra­tions are ben­e­fit­ing from ex­ploit­ing the low wages abroad… but not for long. Many of the busi­nesses that orig­i­nally left the U.S. have al­ready reshored pro­duc­tion, bring­ing man­u­fac­tur­ing jobs back to the states. Reshoring is es­sen­tially the re­verse off­shoring, which was pop­u­lar dur­ing the late 1900s, when la­bor costs were cheaper in for­eign coun­tries like China. Times have surely changed; the cur­rent po­lit­i­cal cli­mate is strain­ing global trade, for­eign mar­kets are con­tin­u­ously im­prov­ing, trans­porta­tion/ distri­bu­tion costs are in­creas­ing, and prod­uct qual­ity is of grow­ing importance to con­sumers. It’s no won­der com­pa­nies are shift­ing pro­duc­tion closer to home. Where does that leave those who were un­em­ployed by re­lo­ca­tion de­ci­sions? The jobs that left the U.S. now re­quire a com­pletely dif­fer­ent skill set, whether it be su­per­vis­ing au­to­mated ma­chines or map­ping in­no­va­tive lo­gis­tics tech­niques. There is no deny­ing that robotics, AI and au­toma­tion have been pi­o­neers in the tech­nol­ogy of to­day’s sup­ply chain; these de­vel­op­ments have cut down pro­duc­tion time by 60 to 80 per­cent (on av­er­age) and la­bor costs by up­wards of 90 per­cent. De­spite the ben­e­fits, man­u­fac­tur­ing work­ers who orig­i­nally lost their ca­reers do not pos­sess the skills re­quired to per­form modern operations, there­fore, they are not qual­i­fied for the po­si­tions that are re­turn­ing to the United States. Mov­ing for­ward, there is a fun­da­men­tal need for re­train­ing pro­grams to ad­just the work­force for the fu­ture of man­u­fac­tur­ing. Com­pa­nies such as Gen­eral Elec­tric and Star­bucks are lead­ing by ex­am­ple; both have made large in­vest­ments in ren­o­va­tions and work­force train­ing to fa­cil­i­tate their reshoring tran­si­tions. In 2012, GE spent $1 bil­lion on re­train­ing and fa­cil­ity ren­o­va­tions in Louisville, Ken­tucky. Sim­i­larly, Star­bucks in­vested up­wards of $150 mil­lion in the lo­cal com­mu­nity of Au­gusta, Ge­or­gia, in­clud­ing the con­struc­tion of an ad­vanced sol­u­ble pro­cess­ing fa­cil­ity. In ad­di­tion to in­di­vid­ual busi­ness ef­forts, or­ga­ni­za­tions such as the So­ci­ety of Man­u­fac­tur­ing En­gi­neers (SME) have im­ple­mented re­train­ing pro­grams where man­u­fac­tur­ing work­ers can learn to be­come ad­vanced man­u­fac­tur­ing experts. These are steps in the right di­rec­tion, but if we expect to keep up with this age of tech­nol­ogy and em­ploy those who were left be­hind, we need more as­sis­tance from busi­nesses, the gov­ern­ment, and other so­cial in­sti­tu­tions. The fu­ture of reshoring may be un­clear, but we must pri­or­i­tize the growth of our lo­cal com­mu­ni­ties and hold cor­po­ra­tions ac­count­able to these values. Al­though much has changed, since the in­dus­trial revolution, Amer­i­can man­u­fac­tur­ing may just be ex­pe­ri­enc­ing global pros­per­ity once again. Will we adapt or get left be­hind? Marcellino. Finnigan, Flynn and Stern are stu­dents at the Univer­sity of Rhode Is­land Col­lege of Busi­ness.

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