A while back I asked the question whether it was your job (HR's job) to find the lowest cost labor for your company to run on, including offshoring work to other countries when it makes sense. I think it probably is your job - workforce planning, best/worst - depending on your perspective. It sucks, I know - but if you don't do it when it makes sense, then someone's going to do it for you.
My good friend, Steve Boese, over at Steve's HR Technology Blog (aptly named, I might add) recently wrote about an article from TechCrunch that highlighted the fact that Foxconn, a huge supplier of all the electronics you use (iPhone - check, iPad - check) is moving out the manual labor in China and replacing it with Robots. No joke - the economics of manual labor in China started not working as well as wages and costs invariably have risen. Crazy stuff...
More from TechCrunch:
"Foxconn is planning on replacing many of its hard-working human manufacturers with about 1 million robots, a number that, if you think about it, is a very telling comment on the current state of electronics manufacturing.
There are apparently 10,000 robots at the factory now and that number will increase by 300,000 next year. Foxconn CEO Terry Gou plans another million robots by 2014. The company currently employs 1.2 million humans.
The most important thing to note here is that most of the repetitive tasks associated with manufacturing – placing components, closing cases, applying decals and paint, and testing – are all done by hand. Although we imagine that the manufacturing industry is run by huge, Transformer-like robots that plop out fully formed iPads in a wicked silicon satire of human reproduction, there are actual people involved in almost every step of the process. We are literally not far off from the Industrial Revolution here."
No robots to 1M robots at this company in 3 years. Think about that... Everyone gets pissed off when jobs get offshored to places like China. Now, jobs in China aren't even getting offshored to the next low-cost location - they're just plugging in robots to take over for the labor that humans provided. Which begs the question, when does production come back to the states because we can do similar type production onshore and avoid the shipping costs? Answer - as soon as the total investment cost makes sense and we can save a dollar when we spread the capital investment costs out over a 5-year period.
So back to the question - is it your job to find the lowest cost labor for your company to run on (at the same quality), including robots?
It is - and it sucks for a huge portion of the workforce in the States that needs retraining to compete as the definition of the labor market changes.
That robotics track at the local technical school should be looking pretty tasty to anyone out of a production job who stumbles upon this TechCrunch article.