Steven G. Zylstra Spring 2017 Message

by Steven G. Zylstra

Steven G. Zylstra, President and CEO, Arizona Technology Council

With all the public conversations lately about keeping manufacturers in the United States, it’s time for a reality check: A lot of the jobs we typically equate with this sector will never come back. If you think this has anything to do with bad trade deals, think again.

The reason is, 20 years of lean manufacturing have created incredible improvement in productivity and efficiency. Six Sigma and kaizen are just a few of the techniques and philosophies that manufacturing has been focused on for the past few decades.

And, yes, technology most definitely has played a part in this change. Consider what self-driving vehicles are going to do to the transportation industry, one of the largest employers in the U.S. economy. From taxi drivers to long-haul truckers — all are at risk of ultimately losing their way of earning a living. And that’s just one industry! These workers will need to find other ways to operate in the new economy.

We shouldn’t try to bring back jobs that literally no longer exist because of reasons that I’ve cited. What we now must be focused on as a nation is training and retraining the massive number of people who are going to be displaced in the next 20 years. We should be concentrating on upskilling and retraining, and getting prepared for this enormous displacement that’s going to happen not only in transportation and manufacturing but in a multitude of areas as we undergo the digitalization of everything.

Every aspect — whether it’s government, industry or education — will have to be partners in addressing this profound societal change that we are undergoing. I don’t know if you want to call it evolution but, at minimum, this is progress. Every time society has gone through some change like this — whether it was agrarian to industrial or industrial to digital — there have been disruptions. There have been 20 to 30 years of chaos that occur. I think we all should get ready for it because it’s coming, and no one will be untouched.

At the Arizona Technology Council, our members already are preparing or leading the way. As Intel’s research focus on the Internet of Things (IoT) is based in Chandler, members of our IoT Committee share information that can help organizations create business solutions in this sensor-enabled, analytics-driven world. Our Additive Manufacturing Committee is exploring innovation that’s replacing machinists with use of new technology. Member companies, which include Lyft, Uber, Google and Total Transit, are involved in self-driving cars as Arizona has quickly become a center of autonomous vehicle activity after Gov. Doug Ducey made it clear our state welcomes disruptive technologies.

Ready for the changes that are fast approaching? We encourage you to join our conversations at the Council. Preparing for your future is definitely something you don’t want to get around to “someday.”

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