Thank a Robot for Helping U.S. Manufacturing

March 2024

Robots have made our lives better. However, skeptics would have you believe that reshoring manufacturing and automation isn’t realistic. But the facts indicate the opposite.

Recently, there were news stories about a failed hand tool factory in Texas (one is at The articles focused on the failure of Americans to build things in the United States and the failure of robotic systems.

As a career roboticist, I am compelled to comment. There are 12 million of us working in manufacturing in the United States. Manufacturing is the fifth leading employer and the only segment in the top five that produces goods. All the others are in the service sector ( I am proud to have spent my career making U.S. manufacturing more competitive with robots and automation. I love visiting U.S. plants that make bicycles, valves, drill bits, jet engines, light poles, power plants, cars, trucks, and airplanes.

The good news is that U.S. manufacturing is growing. The 2008 Great Recession accelerated the reshoring trend when everyone realized that strong economies are built on manufacturing, not financial services. In 2020, COVID-19 reinforced that manufacturing is a critical part of U.S. infrastructure and that overseas trade is vulnerable to interruption.

I do not blame robots for the failed factory in Texas. Bad robot integration is the cause of robot system failures and results in malfunctioning and unused automation projects collecting dust in the backs of many shops. There are only 36 U.S. robot integrators certified by the Association for Advancing Automation ( Robot integration is tough, and qualified integrators are seldom the lowest bidders. Sometimes, you must tell a customer that technology has not advanced sufficiently to solve their problem and no-bid the job. Certified integrators are experts in the field; they understand the limits of technology and always do a safety assessment before taking on a project.

One of the first automation success stories is in agriculture. In 1900, half of all U.S. labor worked on farms. Today less than 2% does ( Machines have been weaving cloth and manufacturing clothing since the 1700s. Machines have also been washing clothes and dishes since the late 1800s. Everyone has benefited from plentiful, affordable food and clothing, all produced by machines. We don’t miss plowing fields behind a mule, washing dishes by hand, or weaving cloth and sewing all of our clothes. Robots and automation free humans to live longer, better, and more creative lives.

Our current level of prosperity is directly attributable to the improved efficiency that comes with automation. In 1960, one transistor cost $1, which is a billion times more than today’s cost (, making cell phones and computers affordable. Much of this astounding reduction is a result of automation. Progress is not just inevitable, it is desirable.

Cost reduction due to improved efficiency is not recessionary; it is revolutionary. In this global economy, the most efficient producer of a product prospers while inefficient producers go out of business. Personal computers with word-processing software have made business more efficient and productive while eliminating more than half the typists in the United States, but we wouldn’t go back.

Over the last 40 years, I have had the pleasure of successfully integrating hundreds of robots and automated machines in every industry, from food to nuclear power. It is gratifying to return to see these companies thriving and people working with the systems we installed. Robots keep U.S. industry competitive and our standard of living high. Taxing robots in the United States will simply move jobs overseas, not save jobs. I know this because I install robots in 33 countries.

Robots are labor-saving tools that make businesses more efficient and productive. So, don’t give up on U.S. manufacturing and robots. Instead, thank a robot for doing the dull, dirty, and dangerous jobs efficiently so that U.S. manufacturing remains competitive in a global market.


This article was written by Dan Allford (president and owner of ARC Specialties) for the American Welding Society.

WD Mar 24 - Thank a Robot for Helping U.S. Manufacturing
 - Dan Allford