Robots Are the Next Generation of Farmworkers

It’s good to see traditional media connect the dots between automation and immigration, as the Los Angeles Times inadvertently did somewhat on Tuesday’s front page:

The online version of the article appeared last week, on Friday, July 21. An above-the-fold story with photo gets a lot more attention, certainly, as long as those newspaper boxes are sitting on the sidewalk.

The missing part of the message is that the machines make importing foreign farmworkers increasingly unnecessary. If fewer illegals are crossing the border because of Trump, that may hasten smart machines in the fields, but ag robots are coming sooner or later: when the machines become cheaper than human pickers, then field workers will be gone, period.

Plus, it’s long past time that Mexico etc. became more responsive to its own people’s needs, rather than pushing them north to mooch from America.

Remember,

Automation Makes Immigration Obsolete

Can we get Washington to notice that the world of work is changing fundamentally?

A new generation of farmworkers: Robots, By Geoffrey Mohan, Los Angeles Times, July 25, 2017

Growers race to mechanize as labor pool shrinks

Driscoll’s is so secretive about its robotic strawberry picker it won’t let photographers within telephoto range of it.

But if you do get a peek, you won’t see anything humanoid or space-aged. AgroBot is still more John Deere than C-3PO — a boxy contraption moving in fits and starts, with its computer-driven sensors, graspers and cutters missing 1 in 3 berries.

Such has been the progress of ag-tech in California, where despite the adoption of drones, iPhone apps and satellite-driven sensors, the hand and knife still harvest the bulk of more than 200 crops.

Now, the $47-billion agriculture industry is trying to bring technological innovation up to warp speed before it runs out of low-wage immigrant workers.

California will have to remake its fields like it did its factories, with more machines and better-educated workers to labor beside them, or risk losing entire crops, economists say.

“California agriculture just isn’t going to look the same,” said Ed Taylor, a UC Davis rural economist. “You’re going to be hard-pressed to find crops grown as labor-intensively as they are now.”

Driscoll’s, which grows berries in nearly two dozen countries and is the world’s top berry grower, already is moving its berries to table- top troughs, where they are easier for both humans and machines to pick, as it has done over the last decade in Australia and Europe.

“We don’t see — no matter what happens — that the labor problem will be solved,” said Soren Bjorn, president of Driscoll’s of the Americas.

That’s because immigrant farmworkers in California’s agricultural heartlands are getting older and not being replaced.

(Continues)

Farm Robot Is Touted as Kinder to Workers

Down on the farm in Salinas California, a new robot harvester uses “water knives” — actually high-powered water jets — to pick lettuce. To hear the industry flacks describe it, the machines end unhealthy stoop labor in lettuce fields. But details in the story suggest that President Trump’s border enforcement is having an effect when it says, “Fewer immigrant workers are coming to the fields.” Big ag is explaining in a way to portray itself as a humanitarian when other factors are the cause.

In fact, automation has been transforming agriculture just as it has changed factories.


Welcome to Salinas! The Farming Town Where… by wired

The story also does a little dance when it says the machines reduce the need for labor, but workers won’t lose their jobs. In the case of the lettuce robo-harvester, the workers are now doing different tasks like sorting and packing, but how long until automation does those jobs as well? Growers are always looking for less expensive means of production, and that means more smart machines are coming in the long run.

So the Salinas case is another example that America’s cheap worker immigration must end: unskilled foreigners will just end up on the welfare rolls.

Automation makes immigration obsolete.

Below, a robot lettuce harvester moves through a Salinas field.

Robots Wielding Water Knives Are the Future of Farming, Wired.com, May 31, 2017

JUST AFTER DAWN in the Salinas Valley south of San Francisco, a raucous robot rolls through a field spitting clouds of vapor. It’s cutting lettuce heads with water knives—super-high-pressure beams—and gobbling up the produce. The heads roll up its mouth and onto a conveyor belt, where workers in hoodies and aprons grab the lettuce and tear off the loose leaves.

Right across the road, workers are harvesting lettuce the agonizing old-fashioned way—bent over with knife in hand. “If you’re a beginner, it kills you because your back really hurts,” says Isabel Garcia, a harvester who works atop the robot. “It takes somebody really strong to be doing that kind of work.”

Garcia and the other workers here didn’t lose their jobs to a robot—they work in tandem with one. And just as well, because California farms are facing a serious labor shortage of perhaps 20 percent. Increasingly sophisticated robots have to pick up the slack, here and around the world. Because if humanity expects to feed its booming population off a static amount of land, it’s going to need help.

Here in the Salinas Valley, farmers and tech types are teaming up to turn this into a kind of Silicon Valley for agriculture. And they’re not stopping at water-knife-wielding robots. Because it’s data that will truly drive this agricultural revolution. It’s not just about robots doing jobs humans don’t want to do, but AI doing jobs humans can’t do. And AI can’t go anywhere without data.

For sure, the robots will definitely support the dwindling farming workforce. Fewer immigrant workers are coming to the fields, and their demographics are shifting. “Just with a changing population here in California, we’ve got an aging workforce,” says Mark Borman, president of Taylor Farms California, which operates the robot. “So people who are coming out to do agricultural, we’re not getting that younger population into the job.”

(cont.)

Left Media Admits Automation May Affect Need for Immigrant Farm Workers

It’s nearly summer and that means the time has come for media boilerplate articles about a shortage of immigrant workers down on the farm — so couldn’t Washington kindly arrange for a few hundred thousand to be sent to California?? Right on schedule, a Google News search (which covers the last 30 days of listings) for Immigrant Farm Labor Shortage brings up 14,600 results.

You would think there was no such thing as the H-2A visa which allows for unlimited foreign farm workers. Open borders are so much more convenient for everyone concerned — except law-abiding citizens.

However, a different farm labor solution has been developing over the last few years — smart machines that can pick apples, harvest almonds, milk cows and various other agricultural chores.

“Who will pick the strawberries?” used to be an argument for open borders. But now the answer is robots.

Even the immigration-worshiping left media now says that machines are coming to the fields, and the need for foreigners may need to be adjusted. The PRI radio station chats up the changes, including hopeful remarks from immigrant workers. The have no idea what sort of labor revolution is about to happen, but people much better educated than they are similarly naive.

Certainly America won’t H-2A visas or any immigrant workers at all for that matter, given the automated future that will similarly affect most workplaces.

No farm workers? How about a robot, PRI’s The World, June 02, 2017

Blue River Technology’s LettuceBot uses sensors and cameras similar to those in self-driving cars to thin lettuce. Engineer Ken Hickman says the machine is “doing its own thinking” as it thins lettuce, about three times faster than a human crew. Credit: Valerie Hamilton

At Lakeside Organic Gardens, a vegetable farm on California’s central coast, field-workers bundled up against the sun are thinning lettuce crops, chopping out some plants to make room for others. The farm’s owner, Dick Peixoto, walks through the rows, complimenting his workers as he moves along.

“Swinging that hoe from that distance, being able to pick out one plant and not the other, they’re really experts at what they do,” he says. “They’re artists, you know what I mean?”

That’s why I’m surprised at his answer when I ask him if he would replace these workers with a robot doing the same job.

“Not if,” he says, “the question is when.”

Immigrants do the majority of California’s field labor. But as demand grows, workers are becoming scarce. It’s hard for field-workers to come to the US legally. It’s dangerous for them to come illegally. The people working the fields now are getting older, and younger workers want different jobs.

“The handwriting is already up and down the wall that we’ll never have the labor force that we had before,” Peixoto says. “Anyone who’s not adapting to that today has got their head in the sand.”

Enter the LettuceBot. Continue reading this article

President Trump Approves of Continuing Big Immigration

It was disappointing, although not entirely surprising to read President Trump’s disinterest in limiting legal immigration, as remarked in a May 11 Economist interview and quoted by Mark Krikorian in National Review:

Do you want to curb legal immigration?
Oh sure, you know, I want to stop illegal immigration.

And what about legal immigration? Do you want to cut the number of immigrants?
Oh legal, no, no, no. I want people to come into the country legally. No, legally? No. I want people to come in legally. But I want people to come in on merit. I want to go to a merit-based system. Actually two countries that have very strong systems are Australia and Canada. And I like those systems very much, they’re very strong, they’re very good, I like them very much. We’re going to a much more merit-based system. But I absolutely want talented people coming in, I want people that are going to love our country coming in, I want people that are going to contribute to our country coming in. We want a provision at the right time, we want people that are coming in and will commit to not getting…not receiving any form of subsidy to live in our country for at least a five-year period.

But the numbers of those people could be as high as the numbers that are coming in legally now? You’re not looking to reduce the numbers?

Oh yeah, no, no, no, no, we want people coming in legally. No, very strongly. Now they’re going to be much more strongly vetted as you see. You know, we’ve broken the all-time record [of detentions at the border] by many times, 73, we’re up to 73, it’s going to go up to almost 80% at the border, we’ve…you know, really stopped it. We also want farm workers to be able to come in. You know, we’re going to have work visas for the farm workers. If you look, you know we have a lot of people coming through the border, they’re great people and they work on the farms and then they go back home. We like those people a lot and we want them to continue to come in.

The comments of President Trump were foreshadowed by his Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin’s declaration in March that automation’s threat to American jobs was “not even on our radar screen … 50-100 more years.” President Trump has spoken often about globalization as the source of job loss without mention of automation. That ignorance is concerning.

Below, automobile manufacturing once employed millions of Americans, but no longer, since the robots arrived.

Mnuchin’s opinion is not shared by many tech and robot experts, who believe that a substantial portion of US jobs could be automated within a couple decades. The big picture of employment is indeed sobering. Oxford researchers forecast in 2013 that nearly half of American jobs were vulnerable to machine or software replacement within 20 years. Rice University computer scientist Moshe Vardi believes that in 30 years humans will become largely obsolete, and world joblessness will reach 50 percent. The Gartner tech advising company believes that one-third of jobs will be done by machines by 2025. Forrester Research Inc. has a more optimistic view, that there will be a net job loss of 7 percent by 2025 from automation. The recent PwC forecast was only slightly less severe than the Oxford numbers.

Even the most upbeat forecast reveals the foolishness of continuing to import large numbers of immigrants as workers because they are not needed now and will be even more unemployable in coming years. A growing community of angry, jobless foreigners does not sound like a recipe for domestic peace and tranquility.

In addition, overpopulated California dodged a bullet by having a very rainy winter in 2016-17 that ended a disastrous drought that I suspect was worse than authorities were willing to admit. The state experienced severe mega-droughts from 900-1400 which is quite recent in climate terms, and there is no guarantee that similar droughts won’t recur.

California’s Lake Oroville was almost dry in September 2014.

What happens in a modern society when a region runs out of water and millions need to relocate? Certainly in the west, water supply must be considered before inviting millions more immigrants to come live in America.

The automated, potentially drought-plagued future strongly suggests that immigration is an institution that needs to be retired for the good of all Americans.

Robot Apple Picker Will Displace Illegal Alien Workers

Automation’s threat to jobs is not entirely negative, considering that robot pickers can replace an agricultural workforce that is generally estimated to be half illegal alien. The Associated Press article below notes that in Washington state, “several counties near the Canadian border are now majority-Hispanic.”

Abundant Robotics has developed a vacuum-based system that doesn’t bruise the apples. It doesn’t pick particularly quickly, but on balance, the machines can literally work 24 hours a day and don’t require lunch. In the video below, the developers describe how they moved from experimental versions to building a commercial machine.

Apples are easily bruised so hand picking has been the norm. Robot developers think they have that problem solved.

The world of work is being fundamentally altered because of automation. What worries me is how the government is oblivious to smart machines coming on strong and acting as if nothing has changed.

A robot that picks apples? Replacing humans worries some, Associated Press, April 28, 2017

SPOKANE, Wash. (AP) — Harvesting Washington state’s vast fruit orchards each year requires thousands of farmworkers, and many of them work illegally in the United States.

That system eventually could change dramatically as at least two companies are rushing to get robotic fruit-picking machines to market.

The robotic pickers don’t get tired and can work 24 hours a day.

“Human pickers are getting scarce,” said Gad Kober, a co-founder of Israel-based FFRobotics. “Young people do not want to work in farms, and elderly pickers are slowly retiring.”

FFRobotics and Abundant Robotics, of Hayward, California, are racing to get their mechanical pickers to market within the next couple of years.

Harvest has long been mechanized for large portions of the agriculture industry, such as wheat, corn, green beans, tomatoes and many other crops. But for more fragile commodities like apples, berries, table grapes and lettuce — where the crop’s appearance is especially important — harvest is still done by hand.

Members of the $7.5 billion annual Washington agriculture industry have long grappled with labor shortages, and depend on workers coming up from Mexico each year to harvest many crops. Continue reading this article

CBS Imagines the American Future as Automation Nation

The CBS Sunday Morning show began a special edition focusing on money with a report on automation and its threat to employment now and going forward. The eight-minute video report included tough facts about job loss across the skills spectrum with expert comments by Rise of the Robots author Martin Ford and other involved in the technology.

The piece has more facts than most TV reports, but typically the pro-robot cadre is included, and they insist that automation will actually create jobs. Right, all the manufacturing workers, store stockers and pizza cooks will be retrained to be computer coders. As if. But that’s the only way to end the segment on a positive note. And of course, there’s no mention that immigration becomes a counterproductive policy in the automated future — that’s to be expected in network TV.

Check it out (spare video here):

The written version allows perusal of the numbers of jobs likely to be lost from various categories — alarming when they are toted up even partially.

When the robots take over, will there be jobs left for us?, CBS News, April 8, 2017

By every measure, our country is on the road to becoming an AUTOMATION NATION. Our Money Issue Cover Story comes from David Pogue of Yahoo Finance: 

Tony Hughes has been a long-haul truck driver for more than 20 years. But today, all he has to do is sit back and relax.

“’Rosebud’ is on,” he said, flipping a switch.

Today, he’s hauling 20,000 pounds of freight down the Florida turnpike in a self-driving, robotic truck. It’s been retrofitted with a self-driving kit made by Starsky Robotics.

Stefan Seltz-Axmacher, who founded the company in 2016 with Kartik Tiwari, said, “We think that sometime towards the end of the year, we could be doing this run without a person behind the wheel.”

And if it’s not his company, it might be Otto, whose truck made headlines last October by driving itself across Colorado to deliver a shipment of beer. Otto is owned by Uber, which also has been testing self-driving taxis in Pennsylvania and Arizona.

But here’s the thing! Once our trucks and taxis drive themselves, what will happen to the people who used to do those jobs? In the U.S., that’s 180,000 taxi drivers, 600,000 Uber drivers, and 3.5 million truck drivers.

otto-self-driving-truck-on-road-620.jpg

An Otto self-driving truck on the road.

CBS News

“We really need to start to think very seriously about this,” said Martin Ford, author of the book “Rise of the Robots” (Basic Books).

rise-of-the-robots-cover-basic-books-244.jpg
Basic Books

Ford says driverless cars and trucks are just the beginning of a wave of automation that will threaten millions of jobs, in every industry at once, like America’s nearly five million store workers.

Later this year, shoppers in Seattle will be able to walk into the first Amazon Go grocery, take what they want, and walk out again, without ever encountering an employee.

Sensors will detect what you take and bill you automatically.

“The cashiers are totally gone,” Ford said. “You’re going to end up with the equivalent of a Walmart with a handful of employees. You scale that out, and that’s just extraordinarily disruptive.”

Name an occupation, and there’s somebody considering a robot to take it over.

At Zume Pizza in Silicon Valley, four specialized robots help make the pizza. Eventually, the company plans to replace the remaining humans on the line, too.

Pogue said, “You would think there would be some Roman pizza chefs who’d say, ‘No, this is not the way it’s been done since our ancestors!’”

robot-making-pizza-620.jpg

A robot making pizza.

“Well, the world changes,” said Zume’s chief technology officer Josh Goldberg. “There’s a lot of other things we don’t do just the way our ancestors did, either.”

The common wisdom is that robots primarily threaten repetitive, blue-collar jobs. Not so, says Martin Ford: “We’re seeing dramatic advances in the area of computers analyzing tumors, recognizing medical scans, mammograms, and being able to find disease. We’re seeing algorithms move into areas like journalism, for example.”

Wait, wait, wait. Certainly not journalism? “Oh, yeah. Absolutely,” Ford said. “By one account, every 30 seconds there’s a news story published on the web, or maybe in a newspaper, that’s machine-generated.”

Algorithms are even threatening the Masters of the Universe. Two weeks ago, Black Rock, the world’s largest money manager, announced that it’s laying off dozens of human stock pickers and replacing them with robots. By 2025, across the financial industry, artificial intelligence is expected to replace 230,000 human workers. Continue reading this article

A Television First — the Connection between Automation and Immigration Is Discussed!

Tucker Carlson interviewed New York Times columnist Tom Friedman a few days ago about his new book, “Thank You for Being Late: An Optimist’s Guide to Thriving in the Age of Accelerations.” The discussion was about technology, which is the cause of the accelerations from the book title.

Carlson has a new prime-time show on Fox News, and he has apparently been given a degree of freedom about topics to explore, although he has not hit immigration much thus far. On the morning show he once inhabited, he showed a fair amount of interest in mass immigration and how it has affected many areas of American life.

Tom Friedman has lately turned his fuzzy gaze toward technology and the crazy speed-up of society, and even for a liberal columnist, he is a shallow thinker. I watched a C-SPAN video of a recent book talk he gave about the new work and found it to be remarkably boring, particularly for an important and fascinating subject. In his talk with Tucker regarding technology and employment, he chattered on with his little stories of a few new jobs developing in the more automated economy, as if those minuscule examples have anything to do with the economic tsunami we are facing.

Expert opinion is rather dire. A 2013 report from Oxford University researchers estimated that “nearly half of U.S. jobs are vulnerable to computerization” in less than 20 years. The Gartner analytical company predicts that one-third of jobs will be performed by robots by 2025.

How will the economy function in the automated future when paychecks are discontinued because there are no jobs?

In the 1940s, many Americans were employed in the production of cars and trucks.

Now, around 80 percent of automotive manufacturing is done by robots.

Why isn’t Washington facing the jobless automated future? At the least, immigration should be terminated as a government policy, because automation has made immigration obsolete.

Tucker Carlson does seem to have sniffed out this logical progression, but Friedman appeared nervous to have his trite ideas about immigration challenged even a tiny bit.

(Spare Audio)

TUCKER CARLSON: When a lot of us were born, personal computers didn’t even exist; today of course they’re totally ubiquitous, and they’re making more and more jobs obsolete. Today it’s McDonald’s employees, tomorrow it’ll be millions of truck and taxi drivers with self-driving cars. Eventually it will be lawyers and physicians and so on. Will it ever be newspaper columnists and cable news anchors? We’re praying not!

Joining this now is New York Times opinion columnist Thomas Friedman, author of ”Thank You for Being Late: An Optimist’s Guide to Thriving in the Age of Accelerations”. Tom, thanks for coming on. You’re very optimistic in this book, and I appreciate that because I love optimism, but I wondered as i read it, are people wired, from an evolutionary standpoint, to digest this pace of change?

TOM FRIEDMAN: There’s no question Tucker that what’s going on in globalization, in technology in particular, is now faster than the average rate at which humans and societies can adapt. I think people are feeling that sense of acceleration. One of my favorite quotes in the book is from John Kelly around the IBM Watson project, and he said to me when I was working on the book. he said you know Tom, when you buy a car, it comes with a sticker on the rear view mirror. It says objects in your rear-view may be closer than they appear that actually belongs in your front windshield out because it’s the stuff coming at us is actually coming faster than you think. In fact I had an experience in this book I’ve never had before — I felt I had a butterfly net and I was chasing a butterfly and every time I got close, it moved. I had to interview the head of Intel at least three times in writing this book just to make sure nothing changed from six months earlier. So I was actually living that pace of change.

CARLSON: So I mean it’s no one person’s fault of course, though I do think a lot of us are very insensitive to its consequences, among them the political consequences. The last time we had a big technological disruption — the Industrial Revolution — we got 70 years of totalitarian Marxism out of that, our response to that. This is a more profound change, I mean how can you be hopeful about the political consequences? Continue reading this article

Trump Election Prompts Surge of Robot Purchases

Elections have consequences, so they say. The Associated Press reports that farmers in California fear that Trump’s promise of mass deportations means they won’t have enough cheapie Mexicans to pick the crops and are therefore investing in agricultural automation.

Actually, the narrative makes for a swell liberal sob story, but labor-saving farm technology has been improving for years: in 2004 the New York Times reported on increased mechanical harvesting of citrus (In Florida Groves, Cheap Labor Means Machines). Plus, the machines are becoming much cheaper so that even small operations can afford them. Naturally, when farmbots are less costly than illegal alien pickers, farmers choose the machines.

Below, a robot hand picks a pepper.

The upshot is that farming is rapidly becoming automated, with or without Trump’s election. In short. . .

Automation makes immigration obsolete, both on the farm and in the office.

Remember when open-borders flacks routinely asked, “But who will pick the strawberries?”

Robots will pick them!


Continue reading this article

Southern Mexicans Fret, Complain and Bluster over Trump Presidency

The state of Oaxaca lies in southern Mexico, far from the US border, nevertheless a number of its residents depend on connections with the United States to survive, and some put on a brave face about their concerns regarding the new president, voiced in Sunday’s Los Angeles Times.

mexicooaxacausneedsus-latjan117

They make a familiar argument from yesteryear: “Who will pick the strawberries?” and seem to think Americans cannot manage without them.

Hardly! The United States won two world wars and became the planetary superpower before millions of Mexicans invaded to “help” us.

Even in the Mexes’ signature industry of agriculture, automation is coming to the fields and will make immigrant farm labor obsolete before long.

The Times ignores the larger issue that Mexico is rich, consistently scoring around #15 of the world’s nations in GDP ranking. Yet Mexico City feigns poverty in political dealing with its northern neighbor in order to keep its begging hand outstretched. (The US sent wealthy Mexico $560.6 million in foreign aid in 2013.) Remittances from Mexicans residing abroad, mostly in the US, remain a top source of foreign income, nearly $25 billion in 2015. Donald Trump has suggested that he might seize or tax a portion of those billions in order to pay for the border wall, so Mexicans may be squirming over the loss of easy money.

In fact, the best thing that could happen to Mexico would be an end to its dependency on American jobs and dollars by enforcing immigration north of the border. Mexico has great wealth at the top and a growing middle class, but the nation behaves like a poor relation, hoping for more crumbs from the rich uncle.

Donald Trump could help make Mexico average again by enforcing a divorce from the Times‘ “shared economy” and that would be a big improvement for both nations.

Two countries, one economy: A Mexican town whose chief earners are in the U.S. worries what happens if they’re sent home, Los Angeles Times, January 1, 2017

From her stall featuring regional delicacies — chile-infused dried grasshoppers, juicy white worms from the maguey plant and handmade chocolates, among other edible fare — 63-year-old Eufenia Hernandez issued a challenge to U.S. President-elect Donald Trump.

“If this individual came down here to Oaxaca, we would put him to work,” she said. “Let’s see if he can work as hard as the Mexicans in the north.”

Hernandez, a veteran border crosser, having made the journey 18 times, has a brother and son in California.

“What would the United States do without Mexicans?” she posed. “Who else would pick the crops? Who would build the homes?”

Mexico too depends on those crops, those homes.

Its citizens in the U.S. sent back nearly $25 billion last year, its second-largest source of foreign income, after manufactured goods and ahead of oil. Much of that ends up in impoverished rural communities like the ones here in the southern state of Oaxaca, which for decades have dispatched young and old to El Norte in a deep-rooted ritual of economic betterment.

The cash they send home builds homes, funds small businesses, refurbishes churches and schools, and provides sustenance for multitudes.

It’s evident in the expansive, half-finished homes dotting the countryside, the Mexican version of McMansions. “They are waiting for more dollars from the north to finish,” people explain.

In the state’s central valley region, lines form daily at banks and money-exchange outlets as people collect cash sent from loved ones.

The cycle of people heading north and money flowing south is so entrenched that no one here can envision it ending. And so while the election of Trump, who has vowed to halt it with a wall along the 2,000-mile border, has spread dismay and apprehension, a more common reaction has been bemusement.

Most everyone in the area appears to have heard of Trump and his threats — his bellicose pronouncements about Mexico have been major news south of the border. But there is a pervasive sense that Trump is bluffing — or will have little appetite to pursue his far-reaching immigration agenda once in office. Or that he will inevitably fail.

“It’s all campaign talk,” Rolando Silvaja Jarquina, a retired teacher, said on a Sunday at a busy market in the courtyard of Tlacolula’s 16th century Catholic church, the Assumption of Our Lady, known for a baroque chapel featuring likenesses of beheaded saints. Continue reading this article

Robots Shrink Workforce in California Distribution Center

Kudos to the Los Angeles Times for an excellent report of how automation displaces human workers in a warehouse environment, which unfortunately is a pattern followed by many industries: bring in the smart machines and employ fewer human workers.

Amazon has been the leader of warehouse robotics, with its proprietary Kiva machines, and has received enormous media attention for its incredibly fast processing and shipment of customer orders made possible by modern technology. However, other technologies have been developed to perform similar tasks in other distribution sites.

The Times headline reveals a lot: “Warehouses promised lots of jobs, but robot workforce slows hiring.” Just a few years ago, when the Skechers warehouse/distribution center for Moreno Valley was initially proposed, the facility was expected to provide lots of jobs for local folks. But the technology has come on so rapidly that the final employment offered turned out to be far less than hoped.

Is anyone in Washington paying attention? President-elect Donald Trump hopes to return manufacturing from abroad to the United States, but the same automation revolution is rewriting that industry as well. In fact a recent study found that automation is a worse cause of job loss compared to trade deals. Jobs can indeed be reshored through Trump’s efforts, but the numbers will be fewer than desired because of automation.

According to the forecasts of automation experts, the future workplace will be fundamentally undermined by smart machines and computerization. The Gartner analytical company predicts that one-third of jobs will be performed by robots by 2025, and that trend goes beyond manufacturing to cognitive tasks like financial analysis and medical diagnostics. A 2013 report from Oxford University researchers estimated that “nearly half of U.S. jobs are vulnerable to computerization” in less than 20 years. A report this year from the consulting firm McKinsey and Company, found that 59 percent of manufacturing work could be automated in the next decade.

The best policy that Trump could pursue regarding employment would be to end immigration entirely, because the work universe is shrinking rapidly, and Americans will need all the remaining jobs. In fact,

Automation makes immigration obsolete.

Back to the Skechers warehouse, check out the cheerful video, brimming with efficient conveyor belts sending boxes of product off to purchasers, but with a notable lack of human workers:

Below, a Skechers automated warehouse shows shoes in chutes ready for shipment.

skecherswarehousechutesofshoes

Where are shoppers supposed to come from in the jobless future? Captains of industry aren’t interested in that part of the market equation.

Warehouses promised lots of jobs, but robot workforce slows hiring, By Natalie Kitroeff, Los Angeles Times, December 4, 2016

When Skechers started building a colossal distribution center in Moreno Valley six years ago, backers promised a wave of new jobs.

Instead, by the time the company moved to the Moreno Valley, it had closed five facilities in Ontario that employed 1,200 people and cut its workforce by more than half. Today, spotting a human on the premises can feel like an accomplishment.

There are now only about 550 people working at one cavernous warehouse, which is about as big as two Staples Centers combined. Many of them sit behind computer screens, monitoring the activities of the facility’s true workhorses: robotic machines.

It’s a sign of things to come.

In the last five years, online shopping has produced tens of thousands of new warehouse jobs in California, many of them in Riverside and San Bernardino counties. The bulk of them paid blue collar people decent wages to do menial tasks – putting things in boxes and sending them out to the world.

But automated machines and software have been taking up more and more space in the region’s warehouses, and taking over jobs that were once done by humans. Today, fewer jobs are being added, though some of them pay more.

Amazon, one of the biggest dogs in warehousing, has built 20 new fulfillment centers outfitted with robotics in the last three years, four in California. Since 2014, the company has added 50,000 warehouse workers nationwide — and more than 30,000 robots.

Robots are muscling their way into almost every single occupation, but they pose a direct and immediate threat to people working in storage, industry experts say. That work is repetitive and fits into a chain of supply and delivery that generates reams of data.

For the nation’s 879,800 warehouse workers, 102,800 of whom are in California, profound change is already here.

“The modern warehouse tends to be creating fewer jobs…. Automation is replacing the lowest-end jobs,” said Chris Thornberg, a founding partner at Beacon Economics, a Los Angeles consulting firm.

That shift mirrors the path taken by American manufacturing, where there are fewer jobs going to more qualified people. It underscores how tricky it will be for President-elect Donald Trump to follow through on his promise restore American assembly jobs en masse. Continue reading this article

Mississippi Factories Illustrate the New Manufacturing

Sunday’s Sixty Minutes episode had an interesting segment about the growth of manufacturing in the United States. The show focused on the economic developer Joe Max Higgins, who is both colorful in the southern style and business smart. Nevertheless, the piece provides a window on modern manufacturing, where robots do the repetitious tasks and human workers need technical knowledge for the new factory jobs.

Below, the PACCAR engine manufacturing plant in Mississippi has lots of robots and around 500 human workers.

mississippipaccarmanufacturingplant-cbs

(If the video below doesn’t work, try the CBS Sixty Minutes link below to watch.)

It’s a good news, bad news story: manufacturing is actually going strong in America, but far fewer jobs are being created because of automation and its increased efficiency. For example, one new steel mill in the story needs only 650 workers when it earlier would have required 4000 for the same productivity.

So America does not need any immigrant workers from Mexico or anywhere else.

How an economic developer is bringing factory jobs back to Mississippi, CBS News Sixty Minutes, December 4, 2016

Joe Max Higgins is credited with generating about 6,000 manufacturing jobs in Mississippi’s Golden Triangle, one of the poorest areas in the country. How’s he doing it? Bill Whitaker reports.

Bill Whitaker: This past week, Donald Trump cut his first deal as president-elect. He leaned on Carrier, the heating and air conditioning company, to keep 1,000 jobs in Indiana from going to Mexico. The company got a generous tax break in return. In the last few decades, America has lost millions of factory jobs offshore. But you might be surprised to learn U.S. manufacturing is showing signs of coming back due to cheap energy, proximity to customers, and a rising cost of labor in China. Nearly a million manufacturing jobs have been created since the Great Recession. About 350,000 are unfilled because factories can’t find properly trained American workers. The new plants demand more brainpower than brawn.  It’s called advanced manufacturing and if you want to see what it looks like you need to go a place off the beaten track: The Golden Triangle. That’s a bit of a misnomer because it’s one of the poorest regions in the poorest state: Mississippi.

If you have heard of the Golden Triangle, it might be because of this: Mississippi State football.  Around here, everybody loves the Bulldogs.  And “bulldog” is an apt description of the man who runs economic development for the area: Joe Max Higgins.  He considers job creation a full contact sport.

Joe Max Higgins: The only way we win any deal is to tear off everybody else’s face. We gotta kill everybody to win the deal.

Ferocity is a job requirement. During the recession, unemployment in some parts of the Triangle got as high as 20 percent.

Joe Max Higgins: We’re going to come up with a program.

At 6.0 percent, unemployment is now just above the national average and a lot of people here credit Joe Max Higgins. He has attracted $6 billion of advanced industry including this mill run by Steel Dynamics.  It’s one of the most hi-tech steel mills in the country.  He got this helicopter factory up and running. Truck maker PACCAR used to build engines only in Europe.  It opened its first U.S. plant in the Triangle.

Bill Whitaker: Companies were moving around, this offshoring. They were going to countries where everything’s cheaper?

Joe Max Higgins: For some companies, offshore wasn’t as great as they thought it was or as it was portrayed to be. Many of the companies said “Hey, if it’s gonna be consumed in the U.S., we can produce it in the U.S. cheaper and more efficiently than we can elsewhere and bring it in.”

Bill Whitaker: They save money by being here in Mississippi?

Joe Max Higgins: Uh-huh.

Higgins has brought in 6,000 jobs to the tri-county area since 2003.  That might not sound like a lot to people in big cities.  But to the people here in the small towns of the Golden Triangle, it amounts to about half the manufacturing jobs lost during the last 25 years. Through the 1990s, factories here produced textiles, toys, and tubing.  One by one, they shut down and thousands of low skilled jobs vanished.
Continue reading this article

Citizens Reject Forced Diversity Policy by Supporting Candidate Trump

Wednesday’s Wall Street Journal front page featured a US map showing demographic change with the headline below reading “Rapid Change Aids Trump.” It seems that many citizens don’t like the cultural attack against American values that mass immigration and open borders cause.

americaheartlandmorediversemap2000-2015-wsj

Who ever voted to have a non-American nation? When given a chance to express their opinions in elections, Americans have chosen sovereignty and the English language. Other than ethnic restaurants, the government-mandated importation of various cultures from around the world has brought nothing but trouble for the citizens. As today’s WSJ article points out, schools are hard hit.

Below, the elementary school in Arcadia, Wis., went from almost all non-Hispanic white at the turn of the century to 73% Hispanic as of this year.

arcadiawisconsinschoolyardswings

When immigrants relocate to a new country, they normally settle in ethnic neighborhoods where they can live among persons who share their language, values and culture. But when Americans want the same thing, they are called racist by liberal elites.

Furthermore, the rapid automation of jobs ranging from manufacturing to finance means that immigration is no longer needed for cheap labor — if it ever was. The government should be cutting the import of foreigners, but instead, according to a new CIS study, immigration is surging and the total population of immigrants hit a record high in 2015 of 43.3 million.

Places Most Unsettled by Rapid Demographic Change Are Drawn to Donald Trump, Wall Street Journal, November 1, 2016

Data show immigration has made small towns in the Midwest more racially diverse in the past 15 years, shifting the political needle

ARCADIA, Wis.—Small towns in the Midwest have diversified more quickly than almost any part of the U.S. since the start of an immigration wave at the beginning of this century. The resulting cultural changes appear to be moving the political needle.

A Wall Street Journal analysis of census data shows that counties in a distinct cluster of Midwestern states—Iowa, Indiana, Wisconsin, Illinois and Minnesota—saw among the fastest influxes of nonwhite residents of anywhere in the U.S. between 2000 and 2015. Hundreds of cities long dominated by white residents got a burst of Latino newcomers who migrated from Central America or uprooted from California and Texas.

That shift helps explain the emergence of Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump as a political force, and signals that tensions over immigration will likely outlive his candidacy. Among GOP voters in this year’s presidential primaries, counties that diversified rapidly were more likely to vote for the New York businessman, the Journal’s analysis shows.

Mr. Trump is emphasizing the Midwest this week, with a stop in Wisconsin scheduled for Tuesday.

In Arcadia, Wis., Don Leibl saw the dairy-farming hamlet transform from nearly all white to more than one-third Latino as Mexican immigrants streamed in for jobs. It is a main reason, he said, he is voting for Mr. Trump for president.

“If you’d seen the way things have changed in this town, you’d say, ‘Something needs to be done about it,’ ” the 51-year-old computer systems analyst said, referring to immigrants there illegally. Continue reading this article

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