Manufacturing

Paul Krugman Has Been Writing A Lot About The Ominous Threat Posed By Robots

Source: http://www.businessinsider.com/paul-krugman-articles-about-robots-2012-12

Paul Krugman

The focus of a few of Paul Krugman’s recent blog posts and his most recent New York Times column is robots and how they are fundamentally changing the U.S. labor market.

The upshot of Krugman’s argument is this: income inequality has been increasing for years in the United States, but one of the major drivers that no one talks about is the increasing use of robotics in manufacturing and other industries to do jobs traditionally done by human laborers.

One conclusion Krugman reaches is that even the highly-paid, highly-skilled workers who have dominated the share of income growth in the U.S. over the past several years will be increasingly affected going forward by the rise of the machines:

About the robots: there’s no question that in some high-profile industries, technology is displacing workers of all, or almost all, kinds. For example, one of the reasons some high-technology manufacturing has lately been moving back to the United States is that these days the most valuable piece of a computer, the motherboard, is basically made by robots, so cheap Asian labor is no longer a reason to produce them abroad.

In a recent book, “Race Against the Machine,” M.I.T.’s Erik Brynjolfsson and Andrew McAfee argue that similar stories are playing out in many fields, including services like translation and legal research. What’s striking about their examples is that many of the jobs being displaced are high-skill and high-wage; the downside of technology isn’t limited to menial workers.

Indeed, we’ve seen this taking shape even on Wall Street, where investment banks like UBS are laying off credit derivatives traders and replacing them with computers that trade off signals generated by internal algorithms.

That example reflects another of Krugman’s assertions: the robotics revolution may be a major driver of increasing income inequality.

Krugman writes in another post:

If this is the wave of the future, it makes nonsense of just about all the conventional wisdom on reducing inequality. Better education won’t do much to reduce inequality if the big rewards simply go to those with the most assets. Creating an “opportunity society”, or whatever it is the likes of Paul Ryan etc. are selling this week, won’t do much if the most important asset you can have in life is, well, lots of assets inherited from your parents. And so on.

I think our eyes have been averted from the capital/labor dimension of inequality, for several reasons. It didn’t seem crucial back in the 1990s, and not enough people (me included!) have looked up to notice that things have changed. It has echoes of old-fashioned Marxism — which shouldn’t be a reason to ignore facts, but too often is. And it has really uncomfortable implications.!

Finally, Krugman offers a few alternative explanations for the increasing shift of income distribution toward capital and away from labor that don’t feature robots so prominently. One is the idea that monopoly power – made more ubiquitous by growing business concentration in the United States which allows big producers to control prices more effectively – may be a bigger culprit.

Krugman thus concludes by writing that “the starting point is to realize that there’s something happening here, what it is ain’t exactly clear, but it’s potentially really important.”

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Monday, December 10th, 2012 news No Comments

The Nexus 4 Does Have LTE, It

Source: http://gizmodo.com/5961716/the-nexus-4-does-have-lte-its-just-not-switched-on

The Nexus 4 Does Have LTE, It’s Just Not Switched OnFollowing that iFixit teardown of the Nexus 4, it looks like LG and Google did kit out their new flagship with LTE after all—at least, there’s a Qualcomm multi-band LTE chip in there—it’s just not active. But why whack in a 4G chip and not bother to use it?

There are a couple of theories. The first is network restriction: perhaps one or more mobile carriers have called dibs on an LTE-equipped version to be “released” at a later date. Another theory, as suggested by Ars Technica is that LG’s just left the chip in there as a throw over from the Optimus G, on which the Nexus 4 is based, to reduce manufacturing streams. That’s possible, but why put a chip in there that costs you extra cash if you weren’t going to use it?

On the bright side, perhaps now we’ll have a reason for people to actually root stock Android. Maybe, just maybe, someone will be able to activate that dormant LTE chip and gift the Nexus 4 with 4G. That really would make Google’s flagship absolutely killer. [iFixit via Ars Technica]


The Nexus 4 Does Have LTE, It’s Just Not Switched OnOur newest offspring Gizmodo UK is gobbling up the news in a different timezone, so check them out if you need another Giz fix.

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Monday, November 19th, 2012 news No Comments

Only Three Smartphone Companies Are Profitable (AAPL, GOOG, MSFT)

Source: http://www.businessinsider.com/only-three-smartphone-companies-are-profitable-2012-11

smartphone profit share

Interesting tweet from analyst Horace Dediu, “Apple’s share of operating profits from global mobile phones dropped to 60% in Q3. Samsung now at 39% HTC 1%. No other companies profitable.”

A couple of thoughts on this:

  • How is this sustainable for all the other phone makers? What happens to Motorola, RIM, Nokia, LG, et al.? Do they go away?
  • If they go under what happens to Android? If you’re wondering why Google is trying to save Motorola, this could be a clue. It doesn’t want to be held hostage by Samsung, the only smartphone maker that’s profitable.
  • What happens to Windows Phone? If Nokia continues to lose money and market share, and HTC is just barely profitable, what happens to Microsoft’s mobile efforts?
  • Is this really a business Microsoft wants to enter? Microsoft is reportedly thinking about doing its own smartphone. Does it really think it can make money like Apple and Samsung, companies with years of manufacturing expertise?

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Wednesday, November 14th, 2012 news No Comments

Apple’s Trying to Wean Itself Off of Samsung’s Chips [Apple]

Source: http://feeds.gawker.com/~r/gizmodo/vip/~3/8O806JeMPqs/report-apples-trying-to-wean-itself-off-of-samsungs-chips

Report: Apple's Trying to Wean Itself Off of Samsung's Chips While Apple and Samsung have been duking it out over patents, there’s always been the quiet, underlying irony that Samsung makes a whole bunch of the chips Apple relies on. Now, according to reports from CNET and MacRumors, Apple’s trying to change that.

It’s not exactly surprising. Apple already hired a big chip designer out from under Samsung. Now they’re just taking the next steps.

As an industry source put it to CNET:

“The Apple-Samsung relationship has deteriorated to such a poor point that they’re just looking to fill contractual obligations, then make a change.”

That change, it seems, is moving to the Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company at 20 nanometers, a company that no doubt considers the giant’s business a huge boon. There are also rumors that Apple and Intel have been in talks when it comes to more advanced 14 nanometer production, though that seems further off.

A change like this doesn’t happen in an instant because it’s such a huge shift, but that makes it all the more noteworthy that it’s starting. If you thought Apple and Samsung were just going to kiss and make up, you were probably a bit deluded from the start, but this just goes to show that the rift is ever-widening. [CNET, MacRumors]

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Sunday, October 14th, 2012 Uncategorized No Comments

Source: http://gizmodo.com/5948312/how-makers-are-desktop-fabricating-a-digital-revolution-of-things

How Makers Are Desktop-Fabricating a Revolution of ThingsWhen I was in high school in the late 1970’s, we had workshop class as part of the “Industrial Arts” curriculum. It wasn’t quite clear why this was a required credit—we lived in suburb of Washington, D.C., and there were no factories around and most of my friends’ parents were lawyers and government workers. But learning how to use workshop tools—band saws, table saws, drill presses, and the like—was just part of a mid-twentieth-century American education. The bad kids made ninja throwing stars; the worst made bongs. I made a crude magazine stand that my parents tolerated until I left home; I was lucky to have kept all my fingers through the process. Meanwhile, girls were steered to “Home Economics” to learn about sewing, cooking, and painting, which was, in a sense, another form of required crafting and DIY education.

At home, I made Heathkit electronics kits, which involved soldering irons and weeks of painstaking work with wires and components but were the cheapest way to obtain something like a citizen’s band radio or a stereo amplifier. Chemistry kits had actual chemicals in them (as opposed to little more than baking soda and a ream of legalist warnings, as is now sadly the case), and were great fun. Anybody with a cool or temperamental car spent the weekend under the hood with a wrench, hopping it up and otherwise tinkering with its mechanics. “Taking things apart to see how they work” was just what kids did, and finding users for the parts launched countless fantastic machines, some of which actually worked.

How Makers Are Desktop-Fabricating a Revolution of ThingsBut starting in the 1980s and 1990s, the romance of making things with your own hands started to fade. First manufacturing jobs were no longer a safe way to enter and stay in the middle class, and the workshop lost even its vocational appeal as the number of manufacturing workers in the employment rolls shrank. In its place came keyboards and screens. PCs were introduced, and all the good jobs used them; the school curriculum shifted to train kids to become “symbolic analysts,” to use the social-science phrase for white-collar information work. Computer class replaced shop class. School budget cuts in the 1990s were the nail in the coffin; once the generation of workshop teachers retired, they were rarely replaced; the tools were sold or put in storage.

Imported Asian electronics became better and cheaper than Heathkit gear, and the shift from individual electronic components like resistors and transistors and capacitors to inscrutable microchips and integrated circuits made soldering skills pointless. Electronics became disposable boxes with “no user serviceable parts inside,” as the warning labels put it. Heathkit left the kit business in 1992.

Cars evolved from carburetors and distributor caps that you could fiddle with to rule injection and electronic ignition that you couldn’t. Chips replaced mechanical parts. The new cars didn’t need as much maintenance, and even if you wanted to go under the hood there wasn’t much you could fix or modify, other than to change the oil and the oil filter. The working parts were hermetically sealed and locked down, a price we happily paid for reliability and minimal upkeep.

Just as shop class disappeared with school budget cuts, better opportunities in the workplace for women and gender equality killed Home Economics. Kids grew up with computer and video games, not wrenches and band saws. The best minds of a generation were seduced by software and the infinite worlds to be created online, and they made the digital age we all live in today. That is how the world shifted from atoms to bits. The transformation has gone on for thirty years, a generation, and it’s hard to argue with any of it.

But now, thirty years after “Industrial Arts” left the curriculum and large chunks of our manufacturing sectors have shifted overseas, there’s finally a reason to get your hands dirty again. As desktop fabrication tools go mainstream, it’s time to return “making things” to the high school curriculum, not as the shop class of old, but in the form of teaching design.

Today, schoolchildren learn how to use PowerPoint and Excel as part of their computer class, and they still learn to draw and sculpt in art class. But think how much better it would be if they could choose a third option: design class. Imagine a course where kids would learn to use free 3D CAD tools such as Sketchup or Autodesk 123D. Some would design buildings and fantastic structures, much as they sketch in their notebooks already. Others would create elaborate video game levels with landscapes and vehicles. And yet others would invent machines. Even better, imagine if each design classroom had a few 3D printers or a laser cutter. All those desktop design tools have a “Make” menu item. Kids could actually fabricate what they have drawn onscreen. Just consider what it would mean to them to hold something they dreamed up. This is how a generation of Makers will be created. This is how the next wave of manufacturing entrepreneurs will be born.

From the book: MAKERS: The New Industrial Revolution by Chris Anderson. Copyright 2012 by Chris Anderson. Published by arrangement with Crown Business, a division of Random House,

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Wednesday, October 3rd, 2012 Uncategorized No Comments

FBI Busts The Biggest Counterfeit Coupon Ring Ever

Source: http://www.businessinsider.com/massive-counterfeit-coupon-ring-busted-in-arizona-2012-7

cbs

Early Tuesday morning, federal officials raided four Phoenix, Ariz. properties, seized 21 cars and arrested three women accused of running the largest counterfeit coupon ring in the country. 

The mission involved a joint effort by the FBI, local police, and a roster of manufacturing giants that included Procter & Gamble, PepsiCo and Hershey, which were among dozens affected by the scheme, according to industry watchdog Coupon Information Corp.

During the bust, police uncovered more than $25 million worth of bogus coupons and confiscated 22 assault weapons, along with a 40-foot boat, local law enforcement told CBS 5.

“These aren’t ’50 cent off’ coupons. These are ‘free item’ coupons,” Police Sergeant Dave Lake said. “For Iams, you get this coupon from her for $10 and you can get a $70 item…If you can get an unlimited number of those, think how this grows.”

Unraveling the scheme

There’s no telling how badly businesses were burned, but police estimate they’ve lost hundreds of millions of dollars. Here’s how manufactures helped tip investigators off to the fraud, according to AZ Central:

“Police said approximately four years ago high-quality copies of manufacturer’s coupons began surfacing in the United States from an unknown source. The victim companies teamed with Coupon Information Corp. and hired private investigators to find where the coupons were being sold in the country. The investigators found several market re-entry points, with the most prolific one located in Arizona.” 

That’s where Robin Ramirez, 46, Amico Fountain, 42, and Marilyn Johnson, 62, allegedly ran the bulk of their business, using a fake website and eBay to sell consumers fraudulent coupons at a deeply discounted rate.

How the plan worked

In order to receive the free or discounted coupons, users were “invited” to join the site and given a 100 percent guaranteed return if the deals were rejected at the point of sale.

“They were selling millions of dollars worth of coupons on (eBay) in addition to SavvyShoppersite.com,” CIC Executive Director Bud Miller told AZ Central.

The website domain may sound familiar. “Savvy Shopper” magazine sends out real coupons to consumers each week, but officials say the scammers simply borrowed the brand to make their scheme seem more legitimate. 

While none of the consumers who purchased the coupons will face charges, counterfeit coupons could easily land the people and businesses that unwittingly purchase them in hot water.

Coupon buyers expose themselves to the possibility of becoming involved with counterfeits, stolen property or other criminal activities,” Miller said in a statement. “They may also expose themselves to additional risk by providing their names, home addresses and financial information to organized crime rings.”

The key to avoiding counterfeit coupons is simple: Don’t buy them. 

Here are some other tips CIC passes along to consumers:

-Beware of invalid disclaimers, such as “You not paying for the coupons, but for the time and effort it took to clip them.”
-Be wary of any coupon emailed to you by anyone but the manufacturer or its authorized distributor
-If a coupon is visible on a computer screen, it is probably counterfeit
-Free product coupons are seldom, if ever, distributed on the Internet.

DON’T MISS: 13 clever uses for household items > 

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Wednesday, July 11th, 2012 news No Comments

A Beautiful Visualization Of How The Labor Market Changed After The Great Recession

Source: http://www.businessinsider.com/the-current-job-market-compared-to-the-pre-recession-job-market-2012-3


This is a great chart from Dave Altig.

Click to enlarge.

chart

Basically, what’s going on is, any dot above the diagonal line represents an industry where job growth is faster now than it was pre-recession. Any dot below the line indicates slower job growth.

As you can see, manufacturing is the real outlier here, as it averaged a monthly loss of 30K jobs between 2001-2007, whereas it’s been averaging monthly job gains from July 2009 to February 2012.

Karl Smith (who brought the chart to our attention) notes:

This is important for thinking about any kind of structural story you might be inclined to tell. Manufacturing employment had been falling for roughly 15 years and then suddenly stopped falling in the wake of this recession and started growing.

This may be (the) structural shift that folks are looking for but its important to note that this is basically a “reshoring” shift. Although, it’s not so much reshoring as a rapid slowdown in offshoring combined with growing underlying demand.

Anyway, on the flip side of the chart it’s pretty obvious that the big standouts are government and construction jobs, which means that recent signs of turnarounds in both could portend another big leg up in employment.

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Sunday, March 25th, 2012 news No Comments

The Top 10 Manufactured Products In America’s $2 Trillion Export Industry

Source: http://www.businessinsider.com/usa-manufactured-products-exports-america-2012-3


general electric locomotive

According to the Bureau of Economic Analysis, the U.S. exported $2.1 trillion worth of goods in 2011.

And a according to a new study by the Brookings titled Export Nation 2012, exports played a major role in pulling the U.S. economy out of recession, even as jobs were vanishing.

Exports jumped by over 11 percent in 2010–the first year of the recovery.  This represented the fastest growth rate since 1997.

Jobs supported by exports grew by 6 percent during that same period.

“Exports are helping to lead us out of the recession and into recovery,” says Emilia Istrate, lead author of the new report.

“Manufacturing industries accounted for about 61 percent of U.S. exports and produced three-quarters of the nation’s additional sales abroad between 2009 and 2010.”

What follows are the top 10 U.S. manufactured exports in 2010, which helped carry us out of the recession.

Electrical Equipment

Share of U.S. manufacturing exports:
3.4%

Share of manufacturing export growth:
3.4%

Total growth rate:
14.7%

Total revenue:
$32.2 billion

Source: Brookings

 

Fabricated Metal Products

Share of U.S. manufacturing exports:
3.4%

Share of manufacturing export growth:
3.9%

Total growth rate:
16.8%

Total revenue:
$32.6 billion

Source: Brookings

Medical Equipment, Sporting Goods & Miscellaneous

Share of U.S. manufacturing exports:
4.1%

Share of manufacturing export growth:
2.9%

Total growth rate:
9.6%

Total revenue:
$39.4 billion

Source: Brookings

See the rest of the story at Business Insider

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Thursday, March 8th, 2012 news No Comments

Beats Dumps Monster Over Headphone Spat [Audio]

Source: http://gizmodo.com/5875715/beats-dumps-monster-over-headphone-spat

Beats Dumps Monster Over Headphone SpatPeanut butter and jelly, unicorns and glitter, Beats Electronics and Monster. One of these things just doesn’t belong, one of these things is not like the others. After a five-year collaboration, the two companies have terminated their relationship but do hope to remain friends.

According to Businessweek, the breakup came about due to an irreconcilable dispute between Beat’s Jimmy Iovine and Monster’s Noel Lee over which company deserved more credit for the brand’s 53-percent share of the $1 billion headphone market during the last year. As such, Beats has opted out of renewing its manufacturing contract with Monster when it expires later this year

Monster takes credit for the design and production “They wanted to do speakers and I said, ‘The new speaker is the headphone,’ ” says Lee. Beats, on the other hand believes its celebrity connections helped market the devices as high-quality status symbols. “Now a big part of what you’re paying for is the brand and fashion,” Ben Arnold, director of industry analysis for NPD, told Businessweek.

It’s still too soon to see who will ultimately come out ahead from this. Beats Electronics remains the preeminent brand for twentysomethings. Monster on the other hand will have to find a way to replace the lost revenue—reportedly 60 percent of its of privately held revenues and profit. Its recently announced partnerships with fashion brand Diesel and Radio Shack should do nicely though. Those products are expected to hit shelves later this year. [Businessweek via CNetPhoto by Elsa/Getty]


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Friday, January 13th, 2012 news No Comments

The iPad Costs Apple As Little As $229.35 to Build

Source: http://feeds.gawker.com/~r/gizmodo/full/~3/s–4hn9Lyuk/the-ipad-costs-apple-as-little-as-22935-to-build

The $500 16GB, Wi-Fi only iPad costs Apple less than half that to build, according to a recent component breakdown from iSuppli. And for the 64GB 3G iPad, Apple clears nearly $500 in profit. Here’s how it breaks down:

Apple iPad Estimated Bill-of-Materials and Manufacturing Cost Analysis:
This will no doubt be updated once iSuppli and others are able to do a teardown of an actual device, but those estimated profit margins are pretty stunning, particularly on the higher-end models. iSuppli also points out that the 32GB versions of the iPad only cost $30 more to make than their 16GB counterparts, yet retail for $100 more—a good indication that that’s where they expect the sweet spot to be in the market.

Goes a long way to explaining why Apple’s so willing to be flexible on the price, no?[iSuppli]

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Thursday, February 11th, 2010 digital No Comments

Dr. Augustine Fou is Digital Consigliere to marketing executives, advising them on digital strategy and Unified Marketing(tm). Dr Fou has over 17 years of in-the-trenches, hands-on experience, which enables him to provide objective, in-depth assessments of their current marketing programs and recommendations for improving business impact and ROI using digital insights.

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