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How Advanced Robotics and Automation are Changing Manufacturing

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A variety of factors may help to explain the decrease in manufacturing jobs (stabilizing the economy, increase in production of goods, aging population, political environment, etc.). But one of the biggest reasons for the decrease in manufacturing jobs is the technological innovations (automation, robotics, Internet of Things, etc.). It is increasingly being employed to drive more efficient warehousing and assembly operations within a factory.

Promote workplace efficiency and employee creativity

Because of productivity and efficiency provided by machines, humans will never be able to compete. Robots offer something humans can’t deliver:

  • Accuracy
  • Incredible consistency
  • Unlimited performance

They perform the same motions millions of times without variation, complaint, or error. They also don’t need sick days or take vacations.

While many fear technological advancements taking away jobs from humans, these are also improving the workplace conditions. There was a time when the workers had to lift and carry all the heavy loads. Now, they will just need several operators to lead the AGVs and machinery in carrying out tasks and handling of luggage during warehousing exercises.

Automating is repetitive and can be dangerous work, which frees up employees to pursue jobs that require imagination and decision-making skills. In that sense, robots will always drive efficiency but not replace workers.

To some level, increased automation does demand certain skill sets and educational training for employees to be able to operate a connected, technologically advanced manufacturing factory. This means that manufacturers need to do more to develop their talent pool. They should not wait for educated individuals but start training current and the next generation of manufacturing talent to aid with work efficiency.

Increased Employee Safety

Every year, most of the manufacturing companies lose valuable and trained manpower because of slips, falls, and other serious accidents that cause employees to miss work and serious injuries that may lead to death. This, in turn, costs companies hundreds of thousands of dollars in workers’ compensation claims, insurance covers, and equipment and product repair or replacement.

Most studies even show, most of the fatal and nonfatal workplace injuries and illnesses that have occurred in manufacturing, places in the value of millions. This means slight errors in the handling of equipment could even lead to death. But, with the employment of robots and automated systems replacing workers in many of the dangerous positions in the workplace, another significant benefit emerges, namely improved employee safety.

As shown in a World Economic Forum document from the year 2015, Robots are ideal for tasks that are too dangerous for humans to undertake, and can work 24 hours non stop. This can be an assembly plant, where the machinery may need to be moved repeatedly from place to place in assuring work efficiency. If humans were to be involved in the movement, chances of having problems with humans are higher than with robots.

Interestingly enough, the article also explains that new-generation robotic machines are likely to work together with humans rather than replace them entirely. With a distinct clear correlation between employee health status and workplace involvement and engagement, the likely result of such human-robot collaboration is more fulfilled employees who can focus on other more challenging tasks, instead of safety concerns around the warehouse while handling products, machinery, or equipment.

Advanced  Robotics Drives Reshoring

An estimation of roughly 1.2 million industrial robots are expected to be deployed by the year 2025, according to Boston Consulting Group (BCG) research. In the current period, at least 10% of today’s manufacturing functions are automated, as BCG predicts this number will rise to 25% as robotics vision sensors and gripping systems improve. Most countries will consider conducting all their products and raw materials sourcing from within the country, rather than importing parts from other countries. This creates more employment opportunities for the country involved.

But what does this mean for manufacturing employment?

As elaborated in an Apple Rubber blog on the impact of robotics in manufacturing, increasing the use of robots will help to create jobs as well as keep manufacturing work in the U.S. “We are spending hundreds of billions of dollars doing this kind of work in China,” says Rodney Brooks, co-founder of Rethink Robots, in the article.They want companies to spend that money on home soil using methods that allow American workers to be more productive.

Final Thoughts

Market research has shown that millennial workers will comprise 75% of the manufacturing workforce by the year 2025, hence the overall impact of technological advancements on the manufacturing employment landscape remains to be seen. Most of the millennials have undergone education and will have a rough idea of what will be needed in the workforce.

But this much is clearer from automation and robotics to computer-controlled systems, the manufacturing environment looks much different today than it did in years past.

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