Robots: Don’t be Afraid, They’re Here to Help
The first robot was created in 350 BC by the mathematician Archytas. Archytas constructed a wooden bird that was able to fly off steam power and eventually travel about 200 meters before it ran out of steam. Since then, advancements in technology, cultures, and knowledge have helped to move the functionality of these machines to new levels. Now, they have become an integral part of companies and industries around the world.
The robot segment recently hit a new record according to a new report from the Robotic Industries Association. For the first quarter of 2018 there were over 10,730 robots shipped to different companies throughout North America with a value of $507 million. This is a 22% increase in the number of robots and a boost of 3% in dollars from the previous record. The industries that saw the most growth were the life sciences industry at 262%, the plastics and rubber sectors at 130%, and the food/consumer goods areas at 64%.
Many people would look at these numbers and immediately be frightened about the security of their jobs as the common thought is that robots take jobs from humans. However, quite the opposite is true. Innovation through robots brings about a progressive economy where increased production and new concepts reveal more rewarding, less repetitive, better paying jobs. The jobs that are created from this are the engineers that design the robots, programmers who tell the robot what to do, production workers who make the robots, and the maintenance crews who keep them running. By 2020 robots are projected to create 2.3 million new jobs, exceeding the 1.8 million jobs that it will replace according to the research firm Gartner. Robots are then projected to create 2 million more new jobs from 2020-2025. These new jobs also pay on average $13,000 dollars more per year than the jobs that they replace due to the jobs being higher skilled.
In addition to the new jobs they are creating, robots are also helping us fill the large number of unfilled positions across industries and the US. At the end of year in 2017, 325,000 positions still needed to be filled in the manufacturing industry due to labor shortages. Robots have been right there to help fill this gap. Some of these jobs that robots are helping with include moving pallets, heavy lifting, and moving items across the warehouse, amongst other tasks.
Robots are also boosting productivity and efficiency levels, leading to higher profit margins. Not only do they provide more uptime than humans because they can literally run 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, they also produce more consistent results, meaning less scrap and waste. They can be utilized to perform mundane and repetitive tasks with more speed and throughout than a human. And they can be useful in processes that may be dangerous for humans. However, they do have their downfalls that require a heavily reliance on people. As economist David Whitaker points out, “Robots are about productivity, they don't do creativity very well, and they don't do things that involve failure, which is at the core of any design process."
In general, the popular opinion that robots take our jobs does have some truth behind it. Robots do replace many jobs that require repetitive motions. However, they also create higher paying, higher skilled jobs, and increase productivity. They are an important part of the growth and success of industries around the world and will continue to help us create new boundaries.