ROSEMONT, IL — Exhibitors, attendees and speakers explored the latest in inspection, process improvement, and metrology during The Quality Show’s third and final day Thursday at the Donald E. Stephens Convention Center in Rosemont, IL.
The biennial event from BNP Media and Quality magazine opened Tuesday afternoon and concluded Thursday. Attendees from more than 28 countries and 48 states registered for the show, which also included a welcome reception on the show floor Tuesday evening, and a networking event Wednesday night in the ballroom.
Harry Moser, founder and president of the Reshoring Initiative, opened Thursday’s events with a keynote address in the ballroom. A full slate of speakers followed him with presentations in the Learning Theater throughout the late morning and early afternoon.
United States manufacturers shipped millions of jobs overseas to Asia and South America a decade ago. But “the tide has turned,” Harry Moser said during his keynote address Thursday morning. “We’re starting to turn around the oil tanker.”
Rising wages in China, and a greater awareness among U.S. companies of the total cost of offshoring jobs (poorer quality, higher overhead, etc.) have led to “reshoring,” or bringing workers who make products sold here back to the U.S.
Moser points to statistics showing the shift: The annual number of jobs leaving the U.S. has dropped from 240,000 in 2003 to 50,000 in 2016, while the number coming back has grown from an average of 12,000 to 77,000. That creates a net job gain of 25,000 jobs in 2016, compared to a net loss of 220,000 in 2003.
Moser encouraged members of the crowd who make sourcing decisions to use his Total Cost of Ownership Calculator to see if bringing jobs back to the U.S. makes financial sense for their company. As jobs do come back, the U.S. also needs to adequately train its workforce to accommodate a growing manufacturing economy, rather than attaching a stigma to careers in the field. To that end, Moser called for better messaging and recruitment for young people to enter technical training. He urged for language to change to respect the “vocational trades” as “professions,” similar to the successful manufacturing culture of Germany that awards the same prestige to skilled labor as it does to college-educated pursuits. Moser also cautioned against alarmist fears of worker displacement by automation, saying that as manufacturing returns to the country, the need for more robotics can work in a virtuous cycle with increased productivity and increased demand for the high-tech equipment to be built.
Throughout the day, quality experts delivered presentations at Learning Theaters 1 and 2 in the exhibit hall. In one presentation, ASQ Inspection Division Chair Jim Spichiger outlined a clear path towards success in “The Value of Professional Certifications.” Earlier in the afternoon, Praveen Gupta, director of quality at Stephen Gould, cautioned against an overload of STEM courses without the balance of liberal arts creativity. Innovation happens at the crossroads of technical knowledge and freewheeling creativity, he said, and the academic disciplines of science and art should not be viewed in competition, but rather in harmony, as seen in the success of Steve Jobs and Apple.
Liberal arts thinking can also lend a sense of humanity to what can be cold science.
“Science without goodness can be terrifying, and goodness without science can be naturally beautiful,” he said. “But, science with arts can do wonders.”
An unscientific survey of the show floor brought one topic to the front repeatedly: big data and automation.
Manufacturers want automated shop floor solutions that communicate data for real-time fixes and adjustments. As technology becomes more affordable, it’s no longer just the biggest players who are serious about robotics.
“Automation, as it pertains to inspection, with regards to robots, has become much more affordable for medium-sized shops,” said Jeff Palmer, vice president of Oasis Inspection Systems. “Four, five or 10 years ago they really couldn’t afford to do it.”
To listen to a podcast interview with Palmer, click here. Quality also spoke with 3DD Corp. CEO Satish Mysore about non-contact inspection and the role artificial intelligence will play in automation in the near future. To hear that conversation, click here.
The Quality Show will be back in 2019 in Rosemont, IL.