Automation and jobs

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20 Under 40: JenniferDessoye

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Dr. Jennifer Dessoye is assistant professor of occupational therapy at Misericordia University and owner of Bright Beginnings Early Learning Academy (BBELA). Discontent with the early education curriculum and understanding of human development and neurolo (read more)

20 Under 40: Amy Hlavaty Belcher

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Amy Hlavaty Belcher, 39, owner and artistic director of Abrabesque Academy of Dancing, believes that for those who have been given much, much is expected. “I just try hard to do my best,” she said. I have been blessed with many opportunities and many gift (read more)

20 Under 40: Christopher Hetro

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Chris Hetro, 33, works hard and plays hard. “A strong work ethic is important, but finding balance outside of work is important because life is too short and you need to enjoy it,” he explained. As an electrical engineer and project manager at Borton-Laws (read more)

20 Under 40: C. David Pedri

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For attorney C. David Pedri, 37, it’s all about a combination of qualities that contribute to success. “My philosophy is simple: be open and honest, treat people the way you would want to be treated, with respect, and work hard to attain your dreams. The (read more)

20 Under 40: Ed Frable

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Ed Frable, 28, believes “if I work hard and stick to my word, good things will happen. My crew will not be deterred. We will re-evaluate our game plan and not give up until the job is complete,” explained Frable, the owner/operator of Ed Frable Constructi (read more)

20 Under 40: William H. Bender II

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William H. Bender II, CFP, CIMA, CRPC, loves what he does. “I’m lucky. I come to work every day excited to help the people and institutions we work with,” explained Bender, 34, first vice president at Bender Wealth Management Group, Merrill Lynch. The fam (read more)

20 Under 40: Angelo Venditti

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Angelo Venditti, 38, heard a call to the helping professions early on. Geisinger Northeast’s chief nursing officer answer was to volunteer for his local fire company. After high school, he became a paramedic, then enrolled in nursing school. Three years a (read more)

20 Under 40: Donald Mammano

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At 20, Donald Mammano began his own company, while attending the University of Scranton. Mammano, now 33, and president of DFM Properties, recalls, as a youngster, holding a flashlight while his father fixed the kitchen sink. “From that point on I was fas (read more)

20 Under 40: William J. Fennie III

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William J. Fennie III, 27, is always knocking on the proverbial door, because he knows one day, one will open. As an investment specialist with Integrated Capital Management (iCM) he cannot take “no” for an answer. “I make cold calls every day to invite f (read more)

20 Under 40: Marcus Magyar

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As an advisor at CAPTRUST Financial Advisors, Marcus N. Magyar, CFP, 30, provides comprehensive wealth management and investment portfolio services to business owners, executives, families and high-net worth individuals. His multi-disciplinary team of pro (read more)

20 Under 40: Heather Davis

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Heather M. Davis, 33, director of marketing and communication, is responsible for creating, overseeing and implementing a strategic marketing and comprehensive communications plan for The Commonwealth Medical College (TCMC). She is also responsible for pr (read more)

20 Under 40: Alexandria Duffney

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Alexandria Duffney, 30, is competitive by nature and loves a good challenge. These qualities have led her to her position as associate director of graduate admission at Wilkes University. Here she works with prospective students interested in enrolling in (read more)

20 Under 40: John Culkin

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John Culkin’s tenets inform: “Less haste equal more speed; the same boiling water that softens the potato hardens the egg, it is all about what you are made of, not the circumstances surrounding you; and don’t ask someone to walk a mile in your shoes, bef (read more)

20 Under 40: Conor O'Brien

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“What could be worse than getting to the end of your life and realizing you hadn’t lived it,” mused Conor O’Brien.” As co-founder and executive director of the Scranton Fringe Festival, O’Brien, 25, is responsible for leading the development of the overal (read more)

20 Under 40: Jessica Siegfried

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Jessica Siegfried, 38, is senior designer with BlackOut Design Inc., where she is responsible for all creative design at the full-service agency, from traditional branding and print to collateral and front end web design. “I’ve always had an interest in t (read more)

20 Under 40: David Johns

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David Johns’ career path has been shaped by his diverse experiences. As director of structural engineering at Greenman-Pedersen Inc., Moosic, Johns, 39, ensures that his engineering and consultant teams provide clients with their best effort. “We complete (read more)

20 Under 40: Robyn Jones

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Robyn Jones, 38, president of ReferLocal LLC, has learned just as many lessons from her business successes as she’s had from her failures — and she believes it’s important to share that knowledge with her employees. After graduating from American Universi (read more)

20 Under 40: Nisha Arora

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Nisha Arora, 36, tries to be the best version of herself every day. As general counsel for ERA One Source Realty Inc., she realized she cannot control other’s behavior so “I try to focus on myself and how I can be better,” she explained. Arora’s responsib (read more)

20 Under 40: Justin Sandy

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Starting at a young age in Hazleton, Justin C. Sandy, 33, found a passion for running. He became a member then a coach for Misericordia University’s cross country and track and field programs. “It was at Misericordia that I also garnered the profound sati (read more)

20 Under 40: Dr. Ariane Conaboy

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As a doctor of internal medicine at Physicians Health Alliance, Dr. Ariane M. Conaboy, 34, realizes the importance of human life and how fragile it can be at times. Conaboy graduated from Scranton Prep and the University of Scranton with a double major in (read more)

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Jobless rate continues upward creep

The number of jobless people in the metro area continued its upward creep in May, according to state numbers out Tuesday. The Scranton/Wilkes-Barre metro area’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate grew by one-tenth of a percentage point to 5.9 percent, (read more)

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In this 2013 photo, Rosser Pryor, co-owner and president of Factory Automation Systems, sits next to a new high-performance industrial robot at the company’s Atlanta facility. Pryor, who cut 40 of 100 workers since the recession, said while the company is making more money now and could hire 10 people, it is holding back in favor of investing in automation and software.

By Kathy Ruff

Automation in the workplace has increased productivity and profits, created consistent quality and improved working environments.

While investment in automation has doubled output per manufacturing worker over the past two decades, the U.S. lost nearly five million manufacturing jobs since 2000.

Northeastern Pennsylvania mirrors that trend, seeing increased automation contributing to the rise and fall of employment for a century in industries including manufacturing of textiles and steel and coal mining.

“We usually associate automation in manufacturing these days with elimination of jobs,” said James Bessen, economist at the Boston University School of Law. “Manufacturing was almost a third of the workforce back in 1950 and now it’s under 10 percent of the workforce. Technology or automation is the major reason for that decline.”

Bessen believes consumer demand and the implementation of automation play a huge role in the rapid and dramatic job growth in many industries including textiles, steel and automotive manufacturing.

“Automation creates jobs in the beginning and then destroys jobs in the end,” he said.

According to Bessen, consumer demand for cloth in the 19th Century led to creation of automation to meet that demand, growing jobs, raising productivity and lowering prices.

“Come to the 20th century, however, people now have closets full of clothing,” he said. “They have draperies. They have upholsteries. A drop in the cost of cloth isn’t going to induce them to buy much more cloth. When demand doesn’t increase, then automation does tend to eliminate jobs. That’s why you have this reversal.”

This pattern became prevalent throughout the manufacturing sector worldwide. Today Bessen sees that pattern continuing in other industries.

“Everybody assumed the ATM was going to eliminate bank tellers,” he said. “In fact, there are more bank tellers. What happened was, just as automation made it cheaper to produce cloth, the ATM made it cheaper to operate a branch office. That meant they could open many more branch offices and compete in the marketplace. They only needed 30 percent less workers per office but the number of offices grew even faster.”

Bessen sees that jobs are not necessarily disappearing but rather that emerging new jobs require new skills. Others agree.

“In the majority of cases, automation has been integrated into repetitive, low-value-add and high-risk processes as a way to speed up production or reduce the potential for injury,” said Eric J. Esoda, president and chief executive officer of Northeastern Pennsylvania Industrial Resource Center, Hanover Township. “Examples include using robotic sensors and arms to quickly pick and pack items off a high-speed production line, lifting and manipulating extremely heavy components or semi-finished goods for further processing and autonomously testing the quality of finished goods.”

Unlike the common belief automation hampers manufacturing job growth, Esoda sees the opposite, especially in the growth today of the robotics industry.

“The clients we’ve seen implement this technology have created new jobs as a result of its benefits,” he said. Those benefits include lower per-unit production costs, reduced operations costs and more competitive prices that can create increased profit margins, a larger market share and more hiring.

Esoda sees automation and jobs hand-in-hand.

While manufacturers most often use systems automation in a standardized high-volume production process, more are getting into short runs of customized products that command higher prices and yield higher margins.

“Automation doesn’t lend itself to these customized tasks,” Esoda said. “In order to pursue the custom product market, a manufacturer needs to bring on engineers and associates capable of making those products in a non-automated environment. By automating certain facets of the production of its base outputs, manufacturers free up associate time to work on custom products or new products. As those segments of the business expand, so too will employment.”

With that expansion, industry observers see opportunities for higher-skilled, higher paying jobs.

“It can become a very easy argument to those who don’t understand the benefits of automation that automation takes jobs away,” said David R. Cotner, dean for the School of Industrial Computing and Engineering Technologies at Penn College, Williamsport. “Automation ultimately can create jobs because it takes people to create the automation, to build the machines, to control the automation, to program it, install it, troubleshot it and maintain it.”

Cotner sees the need for a higher-skilled worker as employers such as Frito-Lay and Kellogg’s in the Greater Susquehanna Valley area use automation to get products quickly produced, onto a truck and into a store.

Change in manufacturing and other industries due to automation is not new and likely will continue as technologies advance.

“The whole society is changing,” said Joseph J. Sebelin, executive director of the Pocono Counties Workforce Investment Area, Jim Thorpe, Carbon County. “Automation will reduce the number of jobs that are necessary. There will be jobs that automation will eliminate and reduce, but there are jobs at this point that cannot be reduced in terms of labor.”

Jobs for carpenters, plumbers, electricians and similar specialty and technical-skilled positions remain in high demand.

“There are some things that cannot be automated, the maintenance mechanic, the maintenance person who takes care of all the equipment to operate,” said Sebelin. High demand continues for specially-trained workers to oversee air conditioning, electrical and plumbing systems in hospitals, resorts and other businesses and industries.

According to Esoda, workers need training in high-demand skill areas including for advanced manufacturing, robotics, additive manufacturing, product design, engineering, mechatronics and similar disciplines.

So what do people need to know about today’s economy in the job market?

“Workers will need to work more closely with technology, freeing up more time to focus on intrinsically human capabilities that machines cannot yet match.” (Excerpt from A Future That Works: Automation, Employment and Productivity by McKinsey Global Institute, January 2017).

Those human capabilities include logical thinking and problem solving, social and emotional capabilities, providing expertise, coaching and developing others and creativity.

“Now everything hangs on life-long learning,” Sebelin said. “When you’re in a job, the job changes constantly and you have to be able to keep up with that. You must be able to progress. You’re not going to get a job where you retire from a job in 20 to 30 years. It’s not that kind of an economy anymore.”

Esoda says the message is clear: “We have to train tomorrow’s workforce today.”

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