Just a passing thought but it strikes me that a fundamental, generally overlooked aspect of replacing people with machines is the future value of each.
When the accountants justify spending a half million dollars on a machine because it will eliminate $200,000 a year in labor cost, thereby providing a 2 ½ year payback, they don’t take into account the fact that, once the swap of people for machines is made, the machine instantly starts to degrade. It’s best moment is its first one; then it’s all downhill from there.
People, on the other hand, just keep getting better. While the machine is slowly moving toward the eventual scrapheap, the people, had they stayed, would have been getting smarter and wiser, more experienced, cross trained, better problem solvers, evolving leadership skills … just increasing in value every day.
Have to wonder how the math might change if the ROI math reflected the increasing value of the people lost, compared to the increasing money pit an aging machine represents.
Oh sure, the depreciation on the machine is factored in, but everyone except the IRS knows that depreciation schedules are more of a tax dodge than a reflection of reality. In fact the tax benefit of accelerated depreciation actually biases the decision more in favor of machines over people.
Interesting to ponder how many potential truly great manufacturing leaders never were; they never had a chance to grow and blossom because they were headcount to be reduced in the mathematics of an accounting process that views them as a liability, and replaced them with machines that have long since found their way to the smelter.