Can 'Cobots' Bring Manufacturing Back Home?

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Companies in advanced economies are investing in automation to close the labor cost gap with developing economies. Cobots, which sit alongside humans to enhance labor productivity in manufacturing, cost less than one-quarter the price of traditional robots, and by 2013, they were already cheaper than human workers in every advanced economy. By enhancing the productivity of humans, automation will likely make manufacturing costs attractive closer to home.

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Karen Harris is managing director of Bain & Company’s Macro Trends Group and is based in the firm’s New York office. Austin Kimson is director of Bain’s Macro Trends Group and is based in the Dallas office. Andrew Schwedel is a partner in the New York office.