Bloomberg Businessweek, Ashley, Ashley Vance discussed on Bloomberg Businessweek


Is a Bloomberg business flash. All right, Charlie, thank you so much. I'll mark it in economic watches are still scratching their heads over the most. Recent monthly jobs report when employers have, but you know what? Two years. A while ago, two years, things like a long time. Two years as fast and all right, there we go. Sometimes it happens. Just gremlins, gremlins around on this crazy Wednesday. All right, so we're talking about the last jobs report where we had about more than half a million jobs in January created. I mean, it was just massive. You also had the unemployment rate unexpectedly retreating to its lowest since 1969. We know Maddie that the tight labor market persists for many types of workers including blacksmiths, enter robots. Story, we've got here with more on this story, you can find it online at Bloomberg dot com slash businessweek and on the Bloomberg but let's get to it with Ashley Vance Bloomberg businessweek features, writer, and author of Elon Musk, Tesla, SpaceX, and the quest for fantastic future. Ashley joins us via Zoom from Palo Alto, California, Ashley, great to speak with you. I think we are all incredibly jealous of you because you have the coolest job in the world. You get to try all of this cool stuff. Tell me about this latest cool technology that you tried out. Yeah, well, a few months ago, I went to this company called Machina labs. They're based in Southern California near Los Angeles, and they've developed these robots, but really some software and a lot of sensors to go along with it that allows them to bend sheet metal to shape metal in ways that would have been done that has been done for centuries by blacksmiths and. It's just this kind of radical new form of manufacturing automated manufacturing that could be a huge boon to industry overall. Is this ultimately Ashley something that can really scale up, ramp up at some point in the future? Yeah, you know, right now this company they're working with, they're working with NASA, the air force they're building in some cases kind of spare parts for fighter jet that's really hard to source or body panels for rocket or something like that. So not quite mass manufacturing yet. The plan if all things work out is to have tons of these robots and have them go at this on a larger scale. And so it could be, but in general, mass manufacturing with dyes where you're stamping out parts will probably be cheaper for a long time. But this still has a big role. All right. Ashley I'm waiting for everybody on Twitter to be like, see, we were right. Robots are going to replace our jobs. I mean, but that's not kind of what this is about. This is, I mean, we don't have a lot of folks necessarily going into wanting to be blacksmiths or metalworking, right? And we have a tight labor market, but there's even a bigger thing of people not wanting to go into what many would call the trades. But yeah, exactly. I mean, if you go talk, I spend my time talking to manufacturing companies and customers. And the biggest problem right now is we had tons, especially in the U.S., lots of kind of mom and pop shops. They got kind of big, but they would do a lot of this metal work, even for companies like SpaceX and still happens today. And in a lot of cases, the kids have not ended up wanting to go take over the company, other younger people haven't pursued these trades. And so right now we have this huge delays in getting spare parts in manufacturing writ large. And so it's not really replacing jobs as much as it's filling jobs that just are not existing right now. So what is the economic impact then for the consumer at the end of this whole chain? Selfishly, does this make anything cheaper for us? It could make big things cheaper. One of the most exciting parts of what marketers doing is that these robots can kind of do things really that humans can't and because you don't have to, if you're a company, if you're a maker of cars, you don't have to put this huge investment. The dyes that they use to stamp out body parts cost hundreds of millions of dollars when all of a sudden done. So if you want to customize car, you want something that's unique, these robots could do that cost effectively. And so there's this idea that we might have much more choice and variety in some of these things that we buy. How much are these puppies cost? Well, the starter pack for the robot. The starter pack. It's about $2.5 million. You get two of these robots. They look like the ones that people might have seen on an automaker's line, a big arm that does stuff at the end. And then there's this big contraption that holds the sheet metal and the real trick here is that metal behaves really strangely when you bend it and start working with it. And it does odd things. And that's why we have blacksmiths that have learned this stuff over centuries. And so these robots with their software that comes in the package actually know how to do these techniques and they use AI software to get better over time and so but you're kind of starting at about 2.5 million. Well, I want to pick up on what you're mentioning that it takes like this intense mastery of the craft, how surprised were you that a robot was able to successfully do this? I was pretty shocked so for the story very quickly I had my face digitized. It was scanned by a laser and turned into this 3D image that the computer could feed into the robots and I expected something really crude to myself to come out on the other side. I still think the robot would, you know, when you see these arms, they're huge. I didn't think it would be able to get all the contours of my face. And it did, you know, it'd be created this kind of four foot large bust of me and it's very lifelike. It scares my children. I put it by them to keep a watch on them when I'm not around. Is it in the house somewhere? Keep this souvenir and so sheet over it. You know, you're hiding it from kids. No, go ahead. Well, I was kind of shocked because I was thinking, I could see like a body panel for a car, just sort of shaping metal into a curve, but this has my nose, my nostrils, my lips, everything. And so, you know, when you see this giant robot doing this, they have the small tools at the end. It was quite remarkable. I love this line in your story how you say that muck and his robots are still too slow to replace the mass production portion, I guess

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