The U.S. Productivity Decline … and Your Shop?

The Wall Street Journal reports on 8/10/2016 that the longest slide in worker productivity since the late 1970’s is still haunting the US economy. “Nonfarm business productivity … the goods and services produced each hour by American workers … decreased at a .5% seasonally adjusted annual rate in the 2nd quarter as hours worked increased faster than output.”

This was the 3rd consecutive quarter where productivity fell … making it the longest streak since 1979. And the annual decline was the worst in 3 years … and the trend shows little sign of reversing.

Is Your Shop Getting Dumber?

We have been harping for years that today’s technology and it’s move more and more toward “artificial intelligence” is making the workforce dumber … and leading to a lack of creativity and worker competence.


See our post ” Is CAD/CAM Making Your Shop Dumber” HERE

The WSJ article goes on to blame the slowdown on weak business investment in new equipment … software … and facilities that could boost worker efficiency.

I would agree partially … but would add that investment should be made in equipment and software that facilitates and sharpens worker’s skills  and know-how … because when TOO MUCH automation is employed … skills suffer.

My belief … in manufacturing anyway … is that complex software that performs ALL the tasks automatically are to blame for today’s “dumber” shops … and possibly the skills drain that shops are experiencing … and in this case the productivity decline. Human-focused software … like our Kipware® … engages the operator with lots of prompts and pushes people harder to think, act and learn. Our skills develop and get sharper only through practice when we use them regularly. In our recent article I made the point that … programming a rectangular pocket or the roughing of a multi-step shaft is not rocket science … but it is tedious. Kipware® can assist by creating this simpler G code quickly and easily … but it’s imperative that the user have the ability to create that G code manually if he had to. The message … ” I could do it if I had to but it’s faster and more efficient this way.” … must be valid. If the user can’t do it … and is relying on the computer to perform a task he is incapable of … that’s a problem. The pilot having the ability to land the plane if he had to … is a lot different than him relying exclusively on the auto-pilot because he doesn’t know how to land the plane.

The WAY Forward?

If measuring your shop’s productivity puts it in step with the overall decline in productivity … it’s time to step up. How? Invest in human-focused software and equipment to GROW your workforce … not in numbers but in effectiveness. Statistics show that advances made from newer technologies is less than compared with those from past technologies.

Again a point we constantly harp on … just because a technology is out there doesn’t mean it’s a must-have.  Driverless cars? Come on … doesn’t the thrill of driving mean anything to anybody ??? And aren’t we a richer person through the driving experience?  A more skilled person? But I digress.

The point being that rushing out to purchase the latest technology is not necessarily a guarantee of increased efficiency and productivity. Instead … expand the “human focused ” technology available … and grow the potential of your workforce … and thereby grow it’s potential for greater productivity.

Kenney Skonieczny – President
Kentech Inc.