Humans have proven the power of their minds through the creation of artificial intelligence and other machinery. Have technological advancements gone so far as to become the dominant component of all industries, including manufacturing? Will a robot be taking over manufacturing lines, now or in the future?
The answer to these questions may or may not be well received; luckily, the answer is not as black and white as one would believe. In the manufacturing industry, there are several areas where robots dominate the work, while other areas require human skills.
Current headlines may paint a picture of manufacturing jobs being dominated by robotics and artificial intelligence: making human workers obsolete. Although we seem to be headed in this direction, the manufacturing industry now requires specific and highly-skilled production tasks.
The question now becomes whether robots are the answer to this and whether or not they will completely take over the manufacturing jobs that humans currently occupy. If the future of manufacturing appears uncertain to you, let us help paint a clearer picture and explain whether robots will or will not be taking over.
Robots at Work
Whether we realized it or not, robots or some form of robotic machinery have worked within manufacturing plants for decades. Many unskilled manufacturing jobs have been eliminated and will continue to be shifted from humans to robots to ease the burden of physically straining and risky tasks.
Robots working within manufacturing plants are not new concepts, with the first industrial robot entering American automotive factories in the 1960s. The first robots were very simple and started by taking on simple tasks such as picking and placing and handling heavy objects.
Automated guided vehicles were also introduced in the 1950s but truly took off in the 1980s. They evolved from simple vehicles that drove around manufacturing plants following a guided rope to the autonomous vehicles which can sense their surroundings and avoid collisions. Over time, technology and science advanced to the widely automated processes we have today.
Robots remain an essential part of the manufacturing industry, and it’s hard to picture a manufacturing facility without them. They are readily used to complete monotonous, repetitive, and physically demanding tasks so that human power can be used for more complex tasks. This means that many unskilled jobs — such as those within warehouses or on assembly lines — will be replaced by robots, putting many unskilled workers’ jobs at risk.
Although robots are widely associated with job losses, they have also improved worker safety and decreased injury rates within industrial and manufacturing plants. Tasks that are strenuous or dangerous have been designated for robotic handling, dramatically reducing human accidents.
The Human Factor
As helpful as robots will continue to be, the question of whether robots will take over manufacturing lines altogether can be answered with a “no.” Humans cannot be replaced in some types of manufacturing jobs.
Although robots have been designed to complete very complex tasks, there remains a level of complexity that can only be handled by human workers. Robots are very successful at completing repetitive tasks they’ve been programmed to complete. Customization, creativity, and personalization remain in the realm of humans.
We can never forget that machinery left unsupervised can fail and cost companies thousands of dollars. Without their human supervisors and maintainers, machines can be unreliable, inefficient, and unproductive.
Although robots can complete very complex tasks, if the amount of money made from those tasks is not enough to cover the costs of the robots, they will not be used and default to humans. Our reliance on technology is undeniable. But it doesn’t mean that all industrial processes are in the hands of robots. Many areas of the manufacturing industry remain manual. Ultimately, jobs in skilled areas requiring compassion, creativity, and social intelligence will increase and be occupied by humans for the foreseeable future.
The Future is Collaborative
Will robots take over manufacturing jobs, or will the human element always remain at the core of all industries and their processes?
There’s no doubt that most industries are becoming digitalized, and the manufacturing industry is no exception. As the technology becomes more widespread, even the highly expensive robots of today will become more affordable.
Artificial intelligence holds excellent opportunities in the future. Currently, machines have to be programmed before they can perform movements; however, there may even come a day when robots can teach and service other devices.
Before this may happen in the future, humans continue to be responsible for the servicing and programming of most machines in the manufacturing industry. As technological advancements progress, new jobs will be created for humans to take on the programming of modern machinery in manufacturing facilities.
All the industrial robots that are currently in use require some form of mechanical, electrical or software care, which wasn’t needed by older technology. Unskilled and repetitive jobs for humans may become scarce as time progresses, but newer and better-paying posts that require a higher skill level will increase.
As a result, job losses will be relatively higher in lower-skilled regions compared to those in highly-skilled areas — even within the same country. Increased robotization is aimed to increase productivity and economic growth, which will hopefully create more jobs than it removes.
Is robotization the right direction? The answer to this question can vary based on several different factors. The region in which you live, your level of education, and skillset, are all predictive of the type of job you are likely to assume.
If you work within the manufacturing industry, completing relatively repetitive tasks, robots will likely do your job more efficiently. Alternatively, jobs requiring a greater skill level and critical thinking will be created for humans to occupy.
It’s impossible to say whether robots or humans will dominate most of the manufacturing jobs in the future. Rather, it appears that cooperation between the two will be more commonly the case.
At Delta Regis Tools, we encourage and support the essential contributions of both humans and machines and strive to remain competitive in the manufacturing industry.