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Topic Title: The demise of electronic assembly workers...
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Created On: 24 April 2010 11:15 AM
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 24 April 2010 11:15 AM
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jencam

Posts: 608
Joined: 06 May 2007

Assemblers of electrical products happens to have incurred the biggest decline of all occupations in the UK according to an article in the Telegraph.

Is the IET able to identify the proportion of job losses resulting from changes in technology (such as automated pick and place machines assembling PCBs from surface mount components replacing technicians assembling PCBs using through hole components) and the proportion of job losses resulting from moving manufacturing overseas?
 07 May 2010 09:09 PM
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johnnmann

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I don't know if there are any official figures on this but I would suggest that moving manufacturing offshore has had much more effect than new technology.

I can try and give some figures from my own experience. Menvier Electronics in Banbury was shut down by its new American owners in 2000 resulting in 300 job losses. Of those I would say about two thirds were production workers, mainly women without engineering qualifications rather than technicians. Most have moved on to other work. Little more than a guess, but I would say no more than 10% are still in electronics related work.
 04 June 2010 11:10 PM
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jencam

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My son inherits an interest in economics from me and likes to apply it to engineering scenarios. He has raised the question whether automation of industrial processes is no longer an effective strategy in a world with oceans of cheap labour.
 05 June 2010 09:51 AM
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jencam

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Originally posted by: g3xoiNo company will - nor can afford to - automate if the capital cost is not paid back in what they consider a reasonable time - Other things being equal.


There's another question about whether banks and financial institutions have pushed companies to transfer work to low wage countries as a condition for providing future loans.
 14 August 2010 11:17 AM
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sbdesign

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Competition from countries with a lower cost of living must be a part of it. Reports of workers living in factory owned dormitories shed light on that to some extent. The lack of affordable loans must also be limiting UK investment in good equipment and workspace. Another oddity is that there are so many space "to-let" signs, but rental costs still seem to be relatively high in the UK. Another issue is that jobs in sales, design, management, quality control etc. often tend to go the same way as production jobs due to efficiency linkages between activities :-0.
If we (pessimistically? realistically?) take the view that the number of these UK jobs will be be slowly declining then can the IET help people faced with redundancies etc? Can any advice be given on retraining or in the choice of careers which can use their skills? Retraining can take a lot of time, effort and money (money something that the unemployed tend to be short of). Can any decline be slowed sufficiently to allow people enough time to adapt to other occupations? The UK economy would appear to be in need of a reduction in the trade deficit (especially in goods trade), so wouldn't a bit of government help actually be a good investment in the short and long term? Other countries (e.g. China/France/US etc) seem to take a more proactive role in their country's production businesses.

Edited: 14 August 2010 at 12:17 PM by sbdesign
 18 August 2010 06:16 AM
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jencam

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Originally posted by: sbdesign

Competition from countries with a lower cost of living must be a part of it. Reports of workers living in factory owned dormitories shed light on that to some extent.


Globalisation is basically a race to the bottom whereby jobs will be moved to the locations where wages are the cheapest and legislation on worker's rights and environmental protection the laxest. When wages rise and legislation is tightened, jobs end up being shifted elsewhere.

The lack of affordable loans must also be limiting UK investment in good equipment and workspace.


Back to blaming the banks and financial institutions. It's a sobering thought how much money has been channelled into buy to let properties since the mid 1990s - much of it borrowed and still not repayed therefore exacerbating the credit crunch that has lead to this recession. Only sheer madness could have allowed so much (borrowed) money to be piled into such an unproductive investment.

Another oddity is that there are so many space "to-let" signs, but rental costs still seem to be relatively high in the UK.


That is an interesting oddity I have not yet worked out in a climate where land values are stagnant or declining.

If we (pessimistically? realistically?) take the view that the number of these UK jobs will be be slowly declining then can the IET help people faced with redundancies etc? Can any advice be given on retraining or in the choice of careers which can use their skills? Retraining can take a lot of time, effort and money (money something that the unemployed tend to be short of). Can any decline be slowed sufficiently to allow people enough time to adapt to other occupations?


The IET doesn't really represent factory workers and electronics technicians without degrees so probably hasn't even thought about these issues.

The UK economy would appear to be in need of a reduction in the trade deficit (especially in goods trade), so wouldn't a bit of government help actually be a good investment in the short and long term? Other countries (e.g. China/France/US etc) seem to take a more proactive role in their country's production businesses.


Some engineers and economists say there is no solution for saving our manufacturing base other than good old fashioned protectionism that is still practiced throughout the world in one form or another - and often works.

Has anybody got round to reading In Praise of Hard Industries yet?
 08 March 2011 01:03 AM
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Wyvern

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Originally posted by: jencam

My son inherits an interest in economics from me and likes to apply it to engineering scenarios. He has raised the question whether automation of industrial processes is no longer an effective strategy in a world with oceans of cheap labour.


Automation of industrial processes is often done to improve the repeatability of the process rather than simply to reduce cost. I have experience of working with reputable Chinese and Indian manufacturers and their processes are highly automated. While labor is undoubtedly cheap in those regions, one should not underestimate the level of automation in those regions where it is appropriate.

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