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Working Papers | April 7, 2020

Redeployment or Robocalypse? Workers and Automation in Ohio Manufacturing SMEs

Anna Waldman-Brown


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Considering recent developments in artificial intelligence, how will today’s automation technologies impact manufacturing workers? To understand the likelihood of an impending robocalypse, this paper explores how small factory owners in Ohio conceptualize automation. Due to the risk of replacing entire production processes and the still-relevant capabilities of old equipment, the firms interviewed for this study primarily automated in order to complement rather than replace existing technologies. This incremental, piecemeal strategy will hinder the introduction of more integrated automation systems that may presage fully-automated manufacturing, thus ensuring the existence of manufacturing jobs for the foreseeable future.

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