Will Robots Replace Workers in the Manufacturing Industry?

by | Nov 10, 2016 | Technology Featured

Now that the 21st century is well under way, we’re already seeing an increasing usage of robotics. While this rapidly evolving technology is already affecting many different facets of our lives, the manufacturing industry is amongst the first to see a large-scale push toward the adoption and integration of advanced automation systems. Unfortunately, many workers are afraid this technology will replace their jobs.

Global Investments

The niche of robotics has piqued the interests of investors from all over the world, including China. In fact, China has recently installed no less than 40,000 machines to support the production and assembly of Apple iPhones. They’ve even set a production milestone of 100,000 robots per year by 2020. As of 2015, the country supplied approximately 20,000 different robots to various factories in the region.

Although China has invested a lot into the area of robotics, it’s not the only country to do so. With experts predicting an industry worth $135 billion by 2019, there are a lot of different entities vying to become the frontrunner in industrial robot production.

Japan, which is home to manufacturers such as Kawasaki, Suzuki, Cyberdyne, Yaskawa and many others, has also made significant contributions to the ongoing research and development of robotics and automation technology. The country aims to have their large-scale production operation in place by the year 2020.

Meanwhile, the surgical robotics industry is expected to reach a total of $5 billion by 2023 in the United States alone. Led by companies such as Medtronic and Intuitive Surgical, the race for the widespread implementation of surgical automation only underscores the significance of the technology.

Human-Robot Collaboration

However, manufacturers are beginning to find out that there’s still a very real need for human interaction. Even in a factory that features a fully automated production line and quality control process, real people are still needed to:

  • Monitor systems
  • Perform repairs
  • Input new operations as needed

To that extent, it’s crucial that companies are able to achieve the perfect balance between robotic production and employee intervention. Mercedes-Benz, for example, recently made headlines by utilizing advanced robotics and automation systems in their production lines. As the company is quick to point out, the sheer amount of customization offered in its vehicles prevents the full-scale implementation of robot workers.

Three-dimensional printing is another area of robotics that is gaining popularity. Apart from consumer interest, the technology is even being used as a quick, reliable, and inexpensive means of producing parts and components in the aerospace sector. Previously, producing a single part in this industry would take up valuable time and resources. By 3D printing parts, designers can make lightweight components that are more flexible and in as many batches necessary without wasting resources. This innovation helps save both the environment and material cost.

Easing the Transition

Perhaps more than anything, managers and company leaders will need to take the time and address the issue of robotics and automation with your current workforce. While there is likely to be some resistance, especially from senior-level employees, it’s important to outline all of the pros and cons in a manner that is clear, concise and straightforward.

Group-oriented meetings are one of the best avenues to use when discussing the future of any business. Not only does this prevent company leaders from having to reiterate the information multiple times, but it also gives the team a chance to ask any questions and provide its own feedback.

Working With Technology Instead of Against It

There’s no arguing the fact that use of industrial robotics will result in the loss of some jobs. However, new opportunities will be created in the areas of computer programming, electrical engineering, industrial design and quality control. Moreover, manufacturers of all sizes will benefit from increased efficiency, accuracy and quality.

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