The hottest unmanned factory is also a silent fact

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"Unmanned factory" is also a "silent factory"

China became the largest robot market in the world in 2013. The pace of industrial automation and robot application accelerated after the promulgation of made in China 2025. Local governments have issued some policies to promote the transformation and upgrading of enterprises. Media reports often focus on how unmanned factories can improve production capacity, reduce employment and reduce product defect rate through real-time monitoring of production data

but is an unmanned factory a good thing or a bad thing for workers? Technology upgrading seems to be a decision of both enterprises and governments. Should workers have the right to participate in decision-making? Or can we only passively accept the fate of machine replacement

reaction of European and American workers to technological upgrading

technological upgrading is an important driving force and pressure of capitalist production. Historically, workers in European and American countries experienced a change in attitude from the destruction of machines by the Luddite movement () to the seizure of machines by trade unions at the end of the 19th century. The latter refers to the fact that the trade union welcomes the technological upgrading of the factory and believes that the new machines can enable workers to enjoy the living standards and working conditions proposed by the trade union. What needs to be done is only to reduce the short-term unemployment pain. However, facts have proved that trade unions are only limited to fighting for distribution rights, and automatically withdraw from ownership and management rights, resulting in the degradation of workers' skills and the weakening of workers' strength

however, during the cold war, many left-wing intellectuals combined with the workers' movement and launched some wildcat strikes, which greatly deterred the management. For example, in Italy in 1980, 20000 workers and executives of the Fiat Turin automobile factory launched a five week strike, protesting the factory's plan to lay off 14000 workers due to automation under the slogan of "work is defended by working". The factory has also introduced an electronic management system, giving managers the power to override skilled workers. However, workers did not respond to the solidification of the grades of physical and mental labor. Finally, under the differentiation of management, the middle-level cadres defected in the strike, which ended in failure. Both blue collar workers and white-collar cadres were spared a large number of layoffs

Fiat factory strike. The picture comes from Luo

and in 1972, during the strike of General Motors factory in Los Angeles, the workers made the slogan of regaining production management control, opposing the assembly speed of the production line from one car per minute to one car in 36 seconds. Finally, the workers united to force the management to give up the layoff plan and adjust the production line speed to the previous level. The heat of workers' resistance continued until the 1980s, when they won the guarantee of lifelong employment. It can be seen that if we do not fight, the dividends brought by automation will not fall on workers actively

automatic production line of general motors. The picture comes from the network

Chinese workers' cognition of machine replacement

industrial automation in European and American countries mainly occurred from the late 1960s to the early 1980s, when trade unions were powerful and welfare states were prosperous, but workers may not be able to enjoy the benefits of technological upgrading. At present, the main body of China's machine replacement movement is semi unproductive migrant workers. How do the workers react to this? Where is the voice of the workers

my research in the Pearl River Delta found that under the influence of mainstream ideas, most workers believe that machine replacement represents the progress of the times. They believe that after automation, work becomes easier, toxic and harmful jobs can be replaced by robots, and production efficiency is also improved. Xiao Gang, a migrant worker who has been working in an electronic factory in Dongguan since 2003, believes that as long as the government does a good job in resource sharing, it will be a good thing to replace people with machines:

just like our farming, at first, machines were not all ethnic, and 100 people planted them, not enough for 100 people to eat. But later, two races, enough to eat a hundred people. Now most of us are not farming, but if we have food, it may require a small number of people to work. However, its benefits can feed more people

however, many workers see the two sides of technology and worry that they will not be able to share the dividends brought by machine replacement, but become victims. For example, in some industries that still need skilled workers, such as furniture, auto parts, etc., the de technicalization effect brought by automation is very obvious, and workers instantly lose their previous control over labor organization and division of labor. For example, in a bicycle helmet factory, before automation, it took at least six months to develop skills to manually cut the helmet shell. After using the robot arm, the workers could work in three days

machine replacement in helmet factory. The picture was taken by the author

in the survey, whether it is the workshop that introduces machine arms or CNC machine tools, the calculation of wages is changed from piece counting to timing. The reason for this is obvious, because the speed of production is no longer determined by the proficiency or enthusiasm of workers, but preset by the standard working hours of machines. For example, workers in an electronic factory realized that before, people controlled machines, and people could work at their own pace. Then they became machine controllers. This means that workers not only cannot reflect their autonomy through the rush game, but also become very difficult to use the weapons of the weak to slack off

according to a recent survey of more than 600 manufacturing industries in Guangdong Province conducted by the Institute of social work and social policy of East China University of technology, 53% of employees believe that they cannot be replaced by machines. On the one hand, this survey involves employees with college or bachelor degree or above, so the results are a little too optimistic. On the other hand, whether machine replacement can replace labor is also related to specific industries. When industrial robots were invented in the 1960s, they were mainly aimed at painting, welding and other jobs in the automotive industry, so they were better at completing standardized and heavy-duty jobs. However, there is an urgent need to replace manual electronic assembly and other positions in the Pearl River Delta. Because the products are non-standard components and the operation requires dexterous movements, robots are still not good at it. However, at present, domestic robot integrators are developing rapidly, mainly focusing on non-standard production projects, so it is more and more likely that various industries will be replaced by robots in the future. The data of the four companies I surveyed with the comparison of employment before and after automation shows that the manpower reduction of the same production line is as low as 67% and as high as 85%

in 2015, when Dongguan just began to implement the machine replacement subsidy policy, I once discussed this topic with some workers. When they learned about the government's policy, they asked: why does the government not subsidize workers laid off because of machine replacement? Later, when I visited officials, I passed on the workers' demands to them, and the answer was:

the British Industrial Revolution, when workers lost their jobs, they would also smash machines. When they are a little lost, it's normal for the waves behind the Yangtze River to push the waves ahead. You can't complain about this society. You can only see how you adapt to it, and then see how to improve yourself. Now you are petitioning because of salary arrears, the boss ran away, and you haven't heard that it was a machine replacement. This understanding of government officials precisely reflects the current lack of voice of workers in industry 4.0

workers' protest against automation

even though many workers are skeptical or even dissatisfied with machine replacement, it is rare for them to take collective action. I have encountered two collective labor disputes in my research. First, auto parts workers boycotted the cancellation of skilled workers' allowances through trade unions; Second, the furniture factory teacher Fu launched a small shutdown in protest against the pay cut

the T factory located in Guangzhou is a Japanese funded auto parts factory, which mainly produces car seat frames. In, the factory began to introduce industrial robots for welding. At that time, the reason why robots were used was that the wages of welders were higher. Because the enterprise had a trade union and collective negotiation system, it would agree with the manufacturer to increase wages every year. If an old worker works for more than ten years, his salary can reach the level of two new employees. In addition, Guangdong has few welding personnel, so it is difficult for enterprises to recruit workers

after the introduction of robots, the factory began to issue documents to transfer welders to general posts. Many welders are in a bad mood, because this means that their welder allowance of 350 yuan per month, which is more than that of ordinary workers, will be cancelled. As the welder allowance is added to the base salary, it also directly increases overtime pay and other benefits

however, because of the collective negotiation system, major decisions in the factory must be implemented with the consent of the employees. When the senior management sent e-mails to all departments asking for their signatures, many workers disagreed and kept making trouble. They insisted: I come in as a welder, not that I don't burn. However, the workers also know that it is difficult to upgrade the action, because the X-ray fluorescence in the second level in front of each production line is analyzed qualitatively and quantitatively. Cameras are installed in the aisles at both ends after the elements between f-u, so as to prevent the workers from paving the way for our customers to minimize the total production cost and terminal use cost. Workers are also afraid of industrial injury and fighting, and we need to collect evidence. Once there is any trouble, the management will stop it immediately. Finally, the trade union mediated on both sides of labor and capital for more than a year before deciding that both sides should make concessions. The final plan is that the retention allowance for welding is yuan, and that for non welding is 120 yuan

however, we all know that the situation will be more difficult in the future. The number of staff in the factory has been reduced from more than 1000 to more than 700. The newly recruited employees are mostly dispatched workers, temporary workers and summer workers. The old employees are also facing negotiation and resignation due to the company's plan to reduce working hours/operators through rationalization and improvement. However, although enterprises guarantee that old workers can get n+1 economic compensation, many people do not buy it. They know that because they have signed an open-ended contract, if the contract is forcibly terminated, they will pay compensation according to the standard of one year and two months

finally, let's talk about the only example I encountered in my research that workers started work stoppages to protest automation

Located in Dongguan City, factory D is a private enterprise specializing in furniture door panels. After the economic crisis in 2008, the real estate market was depressed, so the boss decided to enter the high-end fire door market. Because the fire door is embedded with harmful asbestos, the need for automation is urgent

in 2011, the boss began to introduce automatic and semi-automatic equipment, including automatic mounter, engraving machine and painting system. Before that, the average monthly salary of the old workers in the pressing plate class was more than 6000 yuan, but the introduction of automatic engraving machine greatly improved the production efficiency, and the salary of the old master rose to more than 8000 yuan. The boss was worried, and immediately decided to reduce the wages of teachers. At the same time, he began to recruit a large number of young workers outside. The monthly salary of new workers was only 3000 yuan

the next morning, the new and old workers of the pressing plate class all clocked in, but no one started work. After two hours, the boss came and shouted: do you do it or not, you will pull it down. The Masdar Institute and the University of Manchester have launched a cooperative research program. If you leave, I will pay you today. The arrogant attitude of the boss made the workers angry and hate, but it was more an accident. Because all the time, the teacher and Fu have been relying on themselves

Copyright © 2011 JIN SHI