In popular culture and art, robots have been romanticized over the years. From television series and famous movies such as the Terminator where they are portrayed as a menace to humanity to WALL-E an emotionally compelling animation where robots are seen as heroic and benevolent creations. This shows how human beings portray robots both negatively and positively.
In today’s world, robots are real and not just fictional characters. In fact, robots continue to populate real warehouses, factories and other places of business at a rapid speed. Here, they work alongside human workers by sharing daily tasks. Robots often get good publicity for assisting humans with monotonous tasks and smaller companies in competing with larger rivals as well as increase productivity. However, under the same breathe they receive a lot of backlash with stories being published about how they are stealing jobs from humans.
So, what is a relationship between cobots and human labor? To fully understand this relationship, we had to answer some of the accusations that are levelled at collaborative robots in general.
Are cobots taking away jobs from humans?
According to recent headlines in the media, collaborative robots could take 4 out of 10 jobs in the US. This is playing on the basic fear that robots are here to replace people as the primary workforce in the world thus leaving the human race with no obvious way of earning a living. This type of media coverage together with response goes to show that there are rising concerns over robots taking away our jobs. These concerns are not only pronounced but also widespread.
However, the fact of the matter is that most jobs need the unique performance of human skills. Furthermore, recent studies done by the OECD suggests that only less than 10% of jobs can be fully automated. This limits the number of jobs that collaborative robots are likely to steal away from humans.
Loss and creation of jobs
Job loss and creation is a fact that both the manufacturers of robotics and general human population can’t deny. While some jobs will evidently go, remember that robotic automation is a creator of jobs. Most studies highlighting the effects of robotic automation on human employment is only focused on labor intensive industries heavily relying on the type of workers that robots can replace or limited geographic regions.
Such studies suggest that robots are most likely to have a negative effect only on specific types of jobs. They include assembly and manufacturing work where these machine workers will replace human factory workers inevitably in performing repetitive, monotonous and extremely strenuous tasks. Normally, these are the kind of jobs that most business already have a hard time filling.
According to an article recently published in the Washington Post, a manufacturer based in Wisconsin turned to collaborative robot automation since they were struggling to find enough employees to fill their 132 staff open positions.
Can they fill the skills gap?
Collaborative robots are built in a way that they don’t replace human workers but only enable further automation within manufacturing in a factory floor. Instead, cobots are freed and enhanced to perform more interesting and complex tasks within the company. For instance, some of these tasks could include teaching a cobot to manipulate parts in order to assemble derivative products or programming it to work on a new product line.
Owing to robotic positioning systems, embedded vision systems and sophisticated behavior software, human workers can now train cobots by example thus making them more adaptable and versatile than their predecessors, the robots. For this reason, collaborative robots are going to be the future of manufacturing.
The demand for cobots is growing at a rapid speed and in turn increasing their market. Therefore, in the near future, humans and robots are most likely to be working together on the factory floor instead of human workers being replaced all together.