If you are reading this, chances are you missed it–The Automation Conference, that is. We have assembled a fantastic set of speakers who will share best practices and ideas about implementing automation to achieve business benefits. You can click the link to see updates of the presentations, special video interviews and other information. You can also follow on twitter at #TAC2012.

Speaking of automation and manufacturing, last night we had a reception for speakers with a featured speaker from the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago. William Strauss, senior economist and economic advisor at the Fed of Chicago, spoke on the status of manufacturing. If you ever get a chance to hear him speak, do it. He lays out a clear explanation of economic data. I know, that’s almost an oxymoron, but he can do it.

Here are a few nuggets:

Watch out for the mis-use of statistics by politicians. It is easy to take the same set of data and show it in different ways to support political points of view.

If you obtain all of your information about the state of manufacturing from main-stream media, you will have a warped view.

Over a long period of time (about 70 years), manufacturing employment in total numbers has been stable, but manufacturing output has risen dramatically. The key is productivity. So if you look at the numbers of total manufacturing employment as a ratio of total US employment, then you would think manufacturing is in decline. If you look at the output of manufacturing in the US, then you would have an optimistic view of the state of manufacturing.

[As an aside, that is what we do, right? We help make manufacturing more productive. From an economic point of view, that is good. But, just as the percent of workers in agriculture that it takes to feed us had dropped tremendously over the past 180 years or so, just so the percent of workers it will take in manufacturing to produce all the goods we need will continue to decline over time.]

If you graph manufacturing productivity, you see an inflection point in 1979. Why? Development of CNC and PLC. Automation. What we do is good for wealth creation in the country. We just can’t be the driver of full employment. The trends are against that.

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