Onshoring manufacturing, shoes edition

A nice scenario’ing of brining manufacturing back to the US, told through Under Armour. For example, with factory-automation and higher labor prices, you don’t end up hiring 1,000’s of people:

Plank has lamented that we’ve been making clothes the same way for 100 years, and he hopes to change that with the innovation happening at UA Lighthouse. But a huge innovation in the footwear industry, as in other industries, is automation. Adidas now has two Speedfactories, its automated robot-helmed sites. According to Fortune, these only require 160 employees, cutting out many of the humans formerly needed for this kind of factory work.

Plank is fully aware of this tradeoff. When asked about creating jobs in the US, Plank told Footwear News, “It’s not pegged to have 175,000 of those jobs come back to America. I just wonder if there is a way that we can be more thoughtful, creative, and innovative. What if we could bring 100 of those jobs or 500 or 1,000 or 10,000 here?”

Productivity!

There’s also a nice discussion about a border tax’s effect on retail.

The summary is: on shoring manufacturing will create jobs, but probably much less than “like back in the good old days” notions. Further, in the overall retail system, it’ll require much investment and change.

As ever, for an administration that wants to “shock the system,” it fits what’s on the tin. Get some rubber shoes.

Link

Tech must rethink working with the hobgoblins, cf. scorpions & turtles – TrumpTech

And just today, [Bloomberg is reporting] another executive order being drafted focused on work visas that tech companies depend on, which will have a big impact on how critical talent is recruited. According to the report, “companies would have to try to hire American first and if they recruit foreign workers, priority would be given to the most highly paid.”

More: I was at a chock-full event in Palo Alto last week, as tech types planned their attack on the defunding of Planned Parenthood and the reinstatement of the global gag rule by Trump and the GOP that restricts foreign aid to those organizations that reference abortions in family planning. It was a move that Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg spoke out against last week. “We don’t have to guess,” she wrote, noting that the move is a disaster for women globally. “We know what this will do.”

What else? Well, now there are rumors that Trump could sign another executive order aimed at restricting advances in rights made by gays and lesbians, such as allowing people to refuse to do business with them due to religious objections (expect federal legislation here too). And, earlier this week, press secretary Sean Spicer also said, “I don’t know,” when asked if Trump would rescind a Barack Obama executive order banning anti-LGBT discrimination by federal contractors.

Given tech leaders have been very vocal in their support of gay issues, which are important to their employees, if Trump does any of this, it should go off like a Roman candle in Silicon Valley.

Kara Swisher lays out the naïve basis of thinking things would go well, then a suggestion for tech black-balling Trump and his cronies: they’ll likely take actions to harm tech labor and culture, and business as well.

I’m all for fail-fast when it’s in the world of business, but the confusion and whip-lashing in the immigration stuff this weekend shows that the hobgoblins are both in over their heads and also don’t realize how dangerous caviler their policy setting is.

My concern – as it always has been – is that the Trump adminstration is both against my morals and inept enough to dangerously goof things up. Their bald-facing (any petty!) lying and moronic roll-our of this Muslim Ban shows them to be unfit.

Just imagine how damaging that ineptitude will be when it comes to the nuanced, complicated world of tech. For example: anyone fancy their electronic toys being 30% to 45% more expensive?

Read more reporting on how poorly this was all handled from today’s NY Times piece.

See also Victor Rozek’s history-injected opinion and advice in this topic. Also, a round-up of tech executives public statements on the topic, from Sam Biddle. Also, RedMonk’s call to action.

TrumpTech: $450bn in annual fed spend in limbo

There is a lot of uncertainty in the air,” said one consultant close to the Office of Management and Budget’s IT efficiency initiatives who asked not to be identified. “The whole IT industry and federal IT operations are in a wait-and-see holding pattern,” he said, anticipating official word on key federal IT initiatives and leadership positions.

In my amateur analysis of Trump’s effect on IT spend, it seems like there’s three options:

  1. More of the same with big contractors and vendors, just wrapped up in myths of change.
  2. Complete shut down of everything with respect to growth; they just stop spending and let government IT age.
  3. Start working with new government contractors and doing things differently; the “Space X” option.

Who knows what’ll happen?

Link

It takes more than one factory

[Michael Dell] said that production plants in foreign countries are largely there because that’s where plants have been developed and have ready access to computer device components, including batteries, semiconductors and other supplies. “Building a final assembly plant in the United States is actually quite easy. But that’s not really the point,” he said. “The point is that without the feedstock industries… the components… that plant would be uncompetitive. So we need to have a thoughtful approach to those feedstock industries.”

Link

TrumpTech: If the rocket scientists can do it cheaper, surely IT can too

Boeing and Lockheed were already worried about their costs long before the election. If I were the United Space Alliance, I would be even more terrified of the danger of losing government business now. And those of us in federal IT need to realize that our time may be around the corner.

As we discussed in the 2017 predictions show last month, the Trump adminstration is clearly not reliable in it’s agenda or principals for any reliable, let alone logical, predictions. Cutting spending in favor of “non-traditional” options, though, seems like something they’d goof into.

Link

TrumpTech – survey on Joe Six Pack’s sentiment, telco predictions

I didn’t check the legit’ness of the survey, but:

When it comes to tech priorities for the next four years, the general public doesn’t have the same agenda as tech leaders. For example, only 8% of the general public cares about the Internet of Things and only 5% sees 5G development as a priority. STEM education is only a priority for 13%.

What they do care about is security and hacking, particularly of government data (43%) and consumer data (38%). So if Trump’s administration does come into conflict with the social media and cloud giants, he’s going in with the public’s backing.

There’s no majority belief among either the tech elites or the general public that Trump will make the tech industry more innovative than before (42% and 39% respectively). Among the general public, the largest percentage believes that no change is the most likely option (40%), while more tech elites than Joe Six Packs fear stagnation (28% v 21%).

And, labor-wise:

Some 37% of the general public sees technology as a job destroyer for the average American. The sector is accused of bringing in foreign workers to the US by 70% of the general public and of shipping jobs overseas by 60%. (To be fair, the tech elites go along with these two conclusions!) Over half of the general public (56%) believe that US citizens should be given preference for tech jobs.

Meanwhile, one of the outgoing administrators says there’s plenty of tech jobs, just not qualified candidates:

These efforts will founder if there isn’t a continuing supply of qualified recruits, so next up is to increase access to high-quality science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) education. Underlying the importance of education, the OST noted that more than 600,000 high-paying tech jobs went unfilled in the U.S. in 2015, and the number has only grown since.

See also another outgoing letter that encourages continuing programs that ease IT procurement and shared, cloud services like cloud.gov. Seeing how the Truml administrators treat those programs will be a key litmus test. As I alluded to yesterday, these types of programs seem like ideal “do more with less”/”copy the private sector” programs that fit into Trump’s campaign rhetoric. But, hey: hypocracy ¯_(ツ)_/¯

Telco M&A and regulations

Also, see this extensive net-neutrality/telco prediction piece from Caroline Craig.  With more from 451, if you have access

Despite a very activist FCC under President Barack Obama and Wheeler – resulting in stringent net-neutrality and privacy rules, and a pro-competitive view of mergers and acquisitions – US telecom operators recently have been more than willing to push the envelope. Multiple operators have experimented aggressively with zero-rating. Verizon, in particular, has explored the edges of consumer privacy – from its so-called (and abandoned) ‘super cookie’ effort to its ongoing emphasis on mobile advertising, including customer-data-driven ad targeting. While some industry M&A has stalled, AT&T’s surprising bid for Time Warner pushed the boundaries of vertical integration. A Trump administration looks to be much more hands-off, likely accelerating industry M&A and encouraging telecom providers to experiment freely, with the forces of the competitive market (rather than regulators) reining in anti-consumer oversteps. As the mobile market is now constituted – with four highly competitive wireless operators and a slew of cable operators and other disruptors (e.g., Google and new IoT upstarts) ready to leap in – we’re okay with that. No one wants an anti-competitive industry structure or to see consumer privacy exploited, but overly harsh limits can be destructive, too. It’s up to mobile and broadband operators to not abuse their likely new freedoms, and up to their customers (and regulators) to punish them if they do.

Bonus! check out the huge uptick in digital advertising spend this cycle:

As a matter of fact, digital media spending for 2016 political campaigns was projected to top $1 billion, contributing 9.8 percent of media spend. Comparatively, digital spending during the last presidential election season in 2012 was $160 million. 

Link