Despite the attention paid to tech and gig jobs and workers, the manufacturing industry continues to occupy a central place in the American economy. For many, a manufacturing job provides the most promising path to job stability and upward mobility. However, over the last decade, the implementation of technological advances in manufacturing - digitalization, automation, robots, artificial intelligence, and the internet of things (IoT) - led to heightened fears of job loss, especially for workers without a college degree. The COVID-19 pandemic only exacerbated these fears, creating deep divisions between workers able to engage in remote work and those unable to do so.
Now, as vaccine efforts ramp up, the United States is about to enter a "new normal" and recover from the economic downturn, while also re-engaging previous efforts to revitalize and develop its manufacturing industries, in both traditional and emerging sectors. What does the "factory of the future" look like post-COVID? Will the reliance on emerging technologies deepen - and, if so, what effect does that have on workers? Is it possible for the manufacturing industry actually gain resilience through the adoption of technology?
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