March 2008

Automation by the Numbers


In 2007, 408 industrial plants employing nearly 29,000 people began operations in the U.S. However, 268 plants with about 57,000 employees closed.


The automated production of things for people to buy is what most InTech readers are about. With all the attention given to globalization, one easily forgets the U.S. consumes 40% of those things. When the U.S. economy sneezes, the world catches a cold, and automation professionals need to be heads up.


In round figures, the value of the radio frequency identification (RFID) market grew strongly to $5 billion in 2007. The Manufacturing sector had about 8% of the total number of RFID applications. 19% of the RFID market was in the Financial, Security, and Safety sector. That was tops.


Of mining-and-metals industries interest is the fact that China has ended more than a century of South African dominance of the gold mining industry to become the world's biggest producer of the ore. Chinese gold output jumped to a record high of 276 tons last year. South Africa had been top dog since the discovery of the Witwatersrand reef in 1886.


Contract manufacturing will maintain a 15% to 20% annual growth rate in China primarily because of the advantageous "cost structure" in China (that's "code" for Dickensian labor conditions and environmental neglect and abuse). The growth rate is up despite a spate of drug, toy, and food-product quality problems in Chinese export products the past two quarters.