In all the discussion during this tumultuous political campaign about how many jobs were shipped overseas as the result of "bad" trade deals, one important factor has been ignored: the ability of U.S. companies to raise productivity through more sophisticated automation and improve efficiency with data collection and monitoring systems.
Before NAFTA, CAFTA and any other trade deals began to impact U.S. manufacturing, domestic businesses were already being squeezed by their customers to reduce costs and improve productivity. Certainly, shipping jobs overseas could take care of reducing labor costs, but increased lead times weren't going to satisfy many OEMs that wanted just-in-time manufacturing.
That's where manufacturing automation and production monitoring came in. Adding automation systems, especially in assembly line operations, reduced labor costs and improved productivity.
Production monitoring systems, like the production tracking software offered by ShopFloorConnect, reduce machine downtime and enable businesses to deploy their equipment more efficiently. The company's system works by monitoring and calculating overall equipment effectiveness (OEE). The OEE calculations provided by ShopFloorConnect track the actual number of parts produced by a machine against the total number of parts that could have been produced. Part quality also is factored into the OEE equation. The resulting information assists manufacturers in identifying opportunities to increase production.
As a result of increased automation and improved efficiency, U.S. manufacturers produce twice as many goods as in 1984, but with one-third fewer workers.