At Pennsylvania manufacturer Rodon, there is a new employee named Baxter. Baxter is a robot who works alongside his human counterparts, assisting them in their tasks.
Factory VP Lowell Allen has put Baxter to work at what he’s best at: boring, repetitive jobs.
“Our people have really taken to Baxter,” said Allen. “He’s non-threatening. He’s helping them do their job.”
Baxter is designed to work safely alongside humans. Six facial expressions communicate status to human partners — a raised eyebrow signals confusion if something’s not right on the line. But most of time, Baxter works alone.
“And the best part I like is that Baxter doesn’t have a mouth,” said Allen. “So Baxter doesn’t talk.”
Slow but steady, Baxter toils on 24/7 without breaks or benefits. He costs only $22,000. And even with power and programming costs, Baxter is a $3-an-hour worker.
While Baxter can perform basic, repetitive tasks for a fraction of a human’s wage, he isn’t replacing human employees. In fact, Baxter requires skilled technicians to make sure that he is working at his best. Automation, including robots like Baxter, is bringing manufacturing jobs back to the US from abroad.
Baxter is part of the new factory floor: a cutting-edge mix of people and technology that has helped to reduce production costs enough to bring manufacturing back from China.
“So we’re seeing now,” said Hal Sirkin of Boston Consulting Group, “is companies bring jobs back to the U.S. Not just because of patriotism but because of pure economics. The wages are rising in China, the U.S. is getting more competitive. The average American worker is at least 3 times as productive as the average Chinese worker.”
For Rodon and its sister company K’nex, that means 25 new jobs in three years. “We’re adding equipment, people and possibly breaking ground next door,” said Allen.
Sirkin said: “Had the automation not been put in place for a lot of these companies, we would have no jobs coming back to the U.S.”
This trend is expected to bring between three and five million jobs back to the US by the end of this decade.
Read more about Baxter and the expanding manufacturing industry at cbsnews.com.