By Brian Huse, Director, Marketing & PR, Robotic Industries Association
It’s a new year, but as happened for decades some people still worry that robots will take over the world or at least take away all the good jobs. More likely, they will provide career paths to our children.
At one time it was common to believe computers would displace people in the office. Secretaries were considered extremely vulnerable. There may have been a redistribution of work thanks to computers, but for the most part there is plenty of work for secretaries as long as they have good computer skills. On top of that, no company is complete without an IT department which is totally a product of the computer generation. I think most would agree there always is good demand for IT jobs compared to most other work and the pay is solid.
You could hire people to hand-sew linens, but if your competition uses a sewing machine then you won’t compete on price or volume. In the factory, you could turn parts on a lathe by hand or use a CNC machine and crank out way more for less. The person on the lathe can learn to operate a CNC and the person on the line can learn to operate a robot.
Meanwhile, the more companies that use robots the more our schools will graduate people who program and maintain them and our businesses can employ homegrown talent to become world leaders. It is hard to find a school that does not have a robotics program. If business is good then jobs will follow and our workforce will get trained for good jobs for years to come.
Robots are just machines; people are what matter. You can forsake the sewing machine or the CNC or the robot, but if you use them you will be more competitive. If robots help you improve business then there will be more orders and that leads to more jobs and maybe one day to a new class of worker (just like computers spawned a new generation of IT professionals).
If the discussion turns to service or personal care robots then the same logic applies, however, that sector is far less mature and introduces lots of other issues (and emotions). Industrial robots have been reliable workhorses for decades, known for going up to 50,000 hours mean-time-between-failure. Industrial robots are typically more affordable and more capable than hard automation.
North American manufacturing has barely begun to put robots to work except in a few industries. Amazingly, just when we need good, affordable and proven technology to give our companies a competitive advantage during a down economy we have a new generation of robots to consider. Some have just come to market that take advantage of new safety guidelines which minimize the cost of protecting workers without compromising safety.
In this bumpy economy it is imperative to use the best technology and to be as innovative as possible with it. Robots are no longer the quaint or odd piece of equipment for today’s manufacturers. They are good tools that can restore a company to new heights with better quality and higher productivity. Better yet, there are plenty of trained and experienced workers waiting to help a company be successful with its first robot.
Robotic Industries Association holds many events to help people in the industry understand and succeed with robots. Visit the events section of Robotics Online to see what is available now.
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