Robotics in the Workplace: 5 Things to Consider Before Adoption

March 11, 2022

The robots have not just landed in the workplace. Instead, they are swiftly moving up the corporate ladder, expanding skills, showing excellent retention and productivity rates while also increasing shoving aside their human equivalents. Economists also analyzed the long-term trends around the acceptance of automation and robotics in the workplace , noting that the number of robots in use worldwide has escalated threefold to 2.25 million over the last 2 decades.

While it is expected the rise of robots will bring about numerous benefits in terms of economic growth and productivity, they also acknowledged some drawbacks are predicted to arise at the same time. Investigating the many ways in which robots are transforming the way we do our business highlights some adverse effects that might be brought about by robots entering the workforce. Let’s find out what they are and why robots are bad for society .

Heavy Equipment in Factory Automation Line

Robots in the Workplace

In popular fiction, robots have long staggered alongside human workers, sometimes in harmony and sometimes disastrously, depending on the plot requirements. In reality, industrial robots have been a part of workplaces for many decades now.

They’re relatively cheaper than humans, more active, and do not get tired as human workers do. In fact, in many instances, the collaboration between robots and humans can minimize absenteeism. Moreover, since the pace of human workers cannot increase any further, robots are here to help us.

They are more robust, precise, and swifter than humans are. Their versatile and smaller moving parts enable them to perform tasks more precisely than humans. Companies can implement robots in places where human safety is a significant concern, as they can be used for unwanted or dangerous work where many human workers might deny offering their services.

Five Things to Consider Before Adopting Robots

The worldwide industrial robot market has seen rapid growth over the last decade, with absolutely no signs of slowing down. Projected to reach a whopping value of $73.51 billion by 2023 , industrial robots are a fast-growing commodity in industries where precision and high speed are must-haves.

Companies and researchers are exploring many avenues for enhancing how artificial intelligence (AI) systems and robots work – and technical developments are vital. Therefore, the implementation of robots is one of the most decisive factors for companies in the manufacturing sector.

Companies must take everything into consideration. Here are five things to consider before adopting robots into the manufacturing industry.

Be Selective

Before adding robots to the production process, manufacturers must carefully assess which products best fit their ecosystem to guarantee sustained productivity and longevity. When manufacturers fail to consider the robot’s lifespan, they risk investing in costly tools that last only for 5 years, which is a relatively short lifespan in the world of robotics.

Robots can offer the capability of adjusting it to fit many assembly and manufacturing needs, especially if they are properly maintained. Variances like proactive care programs can help elongate the robot’s life and optimize production and uptime.

Open Up Communications

The robotics and manufacturing industries are becoming universal in their interactions with other businesses. This can generate many languages and cultural barriers obstructing manufacturing coordination and business development.

Robotics integration is a combination of both intellectual and physical resources. Still, both do not typically come from the same location. Look for a robotics supplier with an international footprint as it provides better communication and enables you to take advantage of corporate relationships that they’ve already built, despite where the manufacturing takes place.

Think Ahead

Most electronic products have relatively short life cycles. The latest iterations are pushed out to the market as soon as the first version makes its way to the shelf. By choosing a robot that can perform several applications, manufacturers can repurpose machines for 2nd, 3rd, and even 4th life cycles.

Robots are fast changing. The worldwide robotics market is projected to grow 60% from 2016 to 2022 , and several technological advances have been made along the way. Staying in front of increasing trends and investing in new technologies such as robots can help manufacturers prepare for these swift changes.

Choose the Right Partner

Given the industry's fast growth, buyers will have numerous options to choose whether they want to automate specific processes or boost efficiencies. But, not every robotics seller carries solutions representing a whole manufacturing portfolio.

When selecting robotics sellers, manufacturers must evaluate supplier alignment at both the systems integration and robotics levels. Finding a seller who can support the system's implementation and give you the technical know-how boosts your chances of seamless implementation.

Furthermore, it saves you a significant amount of your money and time having to look for and select many solution providers for the unique solutions and products you’re looking for.

Factor in the Cobot Quotient

Today, many manufacturers are choosing collaborative robots (cobots) more and more. In fact, as per a recent Loup Venture research report , over one-third of robots sold by 2025 will be equipped with collaborative applications, and for plenty of good reasons.

Cobots can tackle the tasks that fall between the capabilities of industrial robots and humans. They also tend to be much easier to program, cheaper, and save money by eliminating the requirement for security fencing. However, there are still many things worth considering.

Cobots are designed to work together with humans in a similar space without the need for hard fencing. When employees come near a cobot, the sensors of the machine tell it to either slow down or stop its movements completely. Due to this, cobots tend to be slower than their non-collaborative equivalents.

Still, this doesn’t indicate that they can’t be dangerous. Without the adequate safety fences in place, the application the robot is serving, together with its end of arm tooling, will tell whether it still poses a danger to the employee or employees in its area.

The Negative Impact of Robots Entering the Workforce

Automation within the workplace is something that employees can expect to see more of in the coming days and years.

From simple software scripts that can automate a vast array of digital workflow processes to more cultured robots capable of performing an increasing number of manual tasks, automation continues to offer new alternatives and solutions across several industries.

Despite plenty of long-term benefits and potential advantages, there are also a growing number of concerns associated with automation, particularly robots, which need to be addressed.

Machines replacing humans in offices and factories have been much of a perpetual concern since the Industrial Revolution and a growing topic of discussion with the evolution of automation in the past few decades.

But so far, the hype has outweighed information about how robots, which don’t require humans to work – actually affect wages and employment. The recently published paper by Daron Acemoglu and Pascual Restrepo finds that industrial robots do have an adverse impact on the workforce.

In their study, the researchers found that for every robot added per 1000 employees in the United States, the wages declined by 0.42%, and the employment to population ratio declined by 0.2 percentage points – to date, this indicates the loss of almost 400,000 jobs.

The effect is more substantial in areas where robots are deployed. As a result, adding one more robot in a commuting zone reduces employment by 6 workers in that particular area.

Several industries are implementing robots to various degrees, and their effects differ among different groups and parts of the country. The automotive industry has embraced robots far more than any other sector has.

Workers who are at low and middle-income levels and perform manual labor are amongst the most likely to have their work affected by robots. The evidence in this research indicates that robots boost productivity and are crucial for firms and continued growth. However, at the same time, they destroy many jobs and minimize labor demand.

While these effects of robots must indeed be considered, it really does not mean we should be anti-robots. It can be implied that a more holistic understanding of what a robot’s effects are must be part of the discussion.

It is well known that automation technologies do not bring mutual prosperity to the business on their own. Thus, they must be combined with other technological changes that create more jobs.

Enhancements in technology negatively affect employment and wages via the displacement effect, in which robots and/or other automation technologies complete tasks that were previously performed by employees.

Moreover, technology has many positive productivity effects by simplifying the tasks and making them relatively easy to complete or creating new tasks and jobs for employees. Automation technology typically creates both productivity and displacement effects. Still, the displacement effect is much more substantial in the case of robots.

In another study of the adoption of robots in France , the researchers found that French manufacturing companies that added robots become way more profitable and productive, but that the increase in the use of robots ultimately led to a decline in employment across the entire industry.

So overall, robots have a mixed effect of replacing jobs that high-wage manufacturing workers used to do while also making companies more productive and efficient. At one end, where robots contribute to greater efficiency and productivity, they are also taking away millions of jobs, leaving workers worldwide jobless.

Let’s see how robots are transforming the way business is now done and the negative impact of robots on employment .

Higher Installation and Maintenance Costs

Unlike software-based and digital automation, which can be configured with minimal overhead, switching from a traditional workforce to a robotic one usually involves a substantial expense.

While industrial and commercial-grade equipment will undoubtedly fall in price as it becomes more commonplace, the total expense required to bring automation into a workplace continues to create hurdles for smaller companies and those with only limited financial resources.

Installation, purchase, and long-term upkeep costs are all something that business owners and employers must think about carefully before investing in the resources required to even automate small-scale workflow processes.

Increased Risk of Data Breach and Other Cybersecurity Issues

Replacing traditional workers with machines or software applications that might be accessed wirelessly might cause a higher risk of a data breach. Enhanced automation isn’t without its risks.

Firms that use computer-controlled machines and smart devices to carry out or manage the bulk of their operations and workflow can usually become an inviting target.

While novel digital technologies that can address security concerns continue to grow, businesses that choose to automate without taking into consideration the safety concerns and those who fail to prioritize digital security can be making a pricey misstep.

Reduced Flexibility

While a robotic workforce may significantly enhance efficiency, enhanced productivity doesn’t come without its costs.

Automated machinery is mostly very limited in terms of its scope of usage, and companies that have to respond to new developments or changing circumstances might find themselves at a significant disadvantage.

While workers might be able to shift their attention and focus without any problem, an automated workflow process might be a tad more than a liability if the change occurs too quickly.

Insecurity and Anxiety Regarding the Future

Loss of jobs due to workplace automation is a huge concern for an increasing number of professionals and workers. The insecurity and anxiety caused by such a massive change, such as automation, isn’t something that must be taken lightly.

Communities that have been established around a particular industry might require some time to adjust to the idea of robots entering the workforce in more significant numbers.

Loss of Jobs and Reduced Opportunities

Loss of job opportunities due to extensive automation promises to create an array of potentially concerning social issues. Self-driving vehicles are poised to get rid of many positions within a few years, and this might prove to be just the beginning.

As technology advances, the range of potential roles and uses that robots can fill is only anticipated to increase. Even certain professions and specialized fields such as surgical care providers and medical diagnostics might be unsafe from the effects of extensive workplace automation.

Wrapping Up: Are Robots Good For Our Society?

As technology in the 21st century has become incredibly advanced, topics like the use of robots and AI have become the primary focus of study. Most people fear that robots and AI will soon begin to take over society.

While the technology to make smart robots exists, the real dilemma is should human workers use them in society? This question is far more popular than ever in our present-day society.

In simple terms, AI is when a machine can understand its surroundings and complete actions based on its understanding. A classic example of this is seen in video games where computer players adapt to their surroundings and behave accordingly to how someone plays the game.

While this is just a small example of how AI is being used by people, scientists have begun to use this mere idea in machinery with specific regard to robots. Many people have mixed feelings regarding the use of robots in society as they’re afraid technology will soon take over our world.

Overusing robots and any other type of machinery that uses AI would be detrimental to our society. It would result in increased job loss and a general sense of hatred and ambiguity towards robots and technology as a whole.

New technology and robots present the entire world’s workplace with plenty of new opportunities for manufacturing. Robots can do all sorts of activities like cleaning, cooking, and even driving. So the more advanced our society becomes as a whole, the more robots will be utilized in the workplaces.

Even though one might see this as a positive thing, there’s no question that thousands of millions of workers will lose their jobs from this. The mere idea of robots dominating society and the workplace has been discussed several times, as employees feared their skills weren’t valued any longer.

These fears were always put away as robots could not think like human beings in the past. However, now the time is different. The world has repeatedly shown how advanced AI is becoming, so it makes sense now that workers should fear their jobs might be replaced.

Without question, manufacturing businesses will soon become entirely reliant on robots to do all the work. However, is the manufacturing industry the only industry to be affected? Truth be told, low-skilled jobs will most probably become obsolete in the coming 10-20 years, leaving millions of people unemployed.

For now, robots still cannot quite make decisions like humans. Unfortunately for us, humans, robots can do just about everything better than we can, apart from feeling emotions. The idea that robots are far more superior to humans in several ways is complicated for many of us to understand.

There’s no doubt that people will be frantic as technology and robots become more popular in the workplace. For now, the human race can only secretly hope their bosses continue to value them as workers as robots will soon begin to dominate.

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