Whenever any new technology makes its way into the market, there are always misconceptions and myths about its effect on the already existing systems. Even though people might have minimal experience or knowledge of innovation, they can still have misinformed views on how it all works.
A classic example of this is robots in the workplace . Despite the International Federation of Robotics's report that there will be over 1.4 million new industrial robots in use by 2019, there are still murmurs from corners about what this signifies for the world of production and manufacturing.
In this comprehensive article, let's take a look at the most common myths and misperceptions around robotic systems in the workplace and debunk them for good.
Robots in the Workplace
In popular fiction, robots have been dragged together with humans, sometimes in harmony, and in other instances, disastrously, depending on the plot requirements. In reality, industrial robots in the workplace have existed for decades in America.
As per the Robotic Industries Association, in 2017, over 250,000 such robots had been installed in the U.S. These machines bear some resemblance to their sci-fi equivalents, usually taking the form of heavyweight, powerful automated arms that carry out tasks like building, painting, or welding.
However, technological developments have started allowing for more diversity of robots in the workplace . At present, in addition to conventional industrial robots, you can find collaborative robots (cobots) who work together with humans, professional service robots, and autonomous mobile robots (AMRs) in a vast array of enterprises and industries.
As these robots of the next generation open newer and greater opportunities, their increasing mobility and interactivity might complicate the task of guaranteeing their human coworkers’ safety.
Quite obviously, introducing new technology in the facility and workplaces is often met with skepticism, anxiety, or frustration. Employers who are thinking of adopting cobots must bear in mind that employees might have particular concerns regarding their job security or safety, and dispelling these fears and misconceptions can be time-consuming.
In fact, there are a couple of myths and misconceptions about the adoption and use of robotic systems in the workplace, which we will take a look at in the next section. It is more or less the same kind of trust you build in any coworker.
Initially, you are observing the new person perform, and then as soon as you observe they’re doing their job correctly, safely, and consistently over time, you establish trust. As a result, the best way to speed up this process is to show employees how a robot can benefit their job quality and safety.
Types of Robots in the Workplace
Here are some of the types of robots that are most likely to be found in professional settings:
These robots are reprogrammable, automatically controlled, versatile manipulators, programmable in 3 or more axes, which can either be mobile or fixed in place for use in industrial automation applications like inspection, manufacturing, assembly and packaging.
These are robots that are designed for direct interaction with humans.
These are robots that can travel under their own control.
Professional service robot
These are robots that carry out commercial tasks outside of industrial automation applications. For instance, robots are used in delivery, cleaning, surgery, or firefighting.
10 Myths and Misconceptions about Robots in the Workplace
Industrial robots are not new. Having been represented significantly throughout science fiction, robots (both fictional and real) have been capturing the imagination of people for decades. Since George Devol designed the first industrial robot in 1954, the use of robotics has led to a significant number of major economic and energy advancements.
It aids companies in staying competitive through greater efficiencies and is vastly used in industries today ranging from agriculture and manufacturing to security and national defense. Given the many benefits that flow from using robots to carry out an array of tasks such as palletizing, welding, and assembling, it’s worth considering why they aren’t even more in use?
As robotic solutions continue to gain popularity amongst manufacturers and business owners to enhance productivity and efficiency, several myths have arisen regarding the place of robots in factories and in society as a whole.
A lot of businesses mistakenly deem robots are not for them and have not looked at the many ways in which robots could boost their productivity, quality, and safety. Some firms are under the impression that they’re only for high-volume manufacturers such as auto companies. Others believe that robots cannot do the type of work needed, or it is not appropriate to use a robot.
Compared to others who do not believe in such myths and misperceptions, these firms are putting themselves at a significant competitive disadvantage. Unfortunately, given there are many myths regarding robots, it is time that we correct them. Now, let’s highlight some of the most common myths and misconceptions about robots and robotics in the workplace.
Myth 1: Robots are taking over the world
A prevalent misconception is that industrial robots will be more intelligent than human workers and seize the reins to soon dominate the world. This is probably the biggest myth to begin with. Robots are certainly not taking over the world.
Despite the significant leaps in artificial intelligence (AI) , it is vital to comprehend that creating algorithms and computing data at high speeds is completely different from our brain’s ability to find and understand hidden meanings, form connections, and adapt to new situations.
Human beings possess the distinctive advantage of being able to solve problems with creativity as opposed to making simple projections on the basis of past data. Due to this, robots face a hard time getting the one-up on human workers.
Myth 2: Robots are challenging to use
Even though it can be pretty challenging to program robots from scratch, the majority of OEMs have focused on simplifying robot programming with user-friendly software. For flexible manufacturing systems, cobots are a relatively new technology that is fast gaining traction.
This type of robot incorporates the use of intuitive hand-guided mechanisms for teaching new tasks and getting rid of the need to explicitly program the rotations of the robotic arm.
Myth 3: Robotic technology isn’t yet mainstream
Over a million robots are used worldwide today. Half of them can be found in diversified environments, including labs, hospitals, and energy plants.
Myth 4: Robots are prohibitively expensive
Robots are becoming more and more affordable by the year. As a matter of fact, a robot’s average has reduced by one-half in the past 30 years or so. Additionally, software solutions that make robot programming accessible are aiding manufacturers in minimizing the engineering time and preventing paying high fees for a specialized robot programmer’s services.
It’s also essential to note that if adopted smartly, a robotic solution will pay for itself by significantly enhancing production efficiency and maintaining the consistency of quality.
Robots can carry out repetitive and mundane tasks at incredibly high speeds without the need to take any breaks. As a result, this poses significant benefits for the firm’s responsiveness and throughput to market demand.
Small to medium-sized manufacturers may worry that robots and automation well exceed their budget. However, the ROI (return on investment) is undoubtedly worth the cost. The financial advantages of incorporating industrial robots into your production line include:
- Improved product quality
- Improved efficiency
- Safer working conditions that help avoid expensive injuries
- Increased production capacity
In addition, you can automate your workplace with quality assured refurbished machinery at just a tiny fraction of the cost of new machinery. With the aid of financing, robotics isn’t a pipedream any longer. Instead, it is a financially-sound reality.
Myth 5: You can’t find someone with skills to program robots.
Even if you cannot find somebody with the right skillset to program robots, you can easily resort to an automation integrator company who can help you in programming the robots.
Myth 6: Robots are only used for building cars
Robots can dramatically enhance the efficiency and productivity of practically any pick-and-place application in any business sector and not just automotive. Packaging lines are a significant beneficiary of high-speed robotic solutions that can deal with approximately 2,000 items per minute.
When fully automated, a pick-and-place application improves productivity, minimizes labor costs, and enhances quality. People tend to envision robots as mere fixtures of automotive production as it entails several tasks that are downright dangerous or challenging for human workers.
Still, many other industries are presented with their own challenges, such as chemical washdowns in the food and beverages sector, that make robots a welcoming solution.
It's true that the automotive industry has been using industrial robots in their production lines for the past 50 years or so. However, enhancing the flexibility and accessibility of robotic applications have made their robots useful in several industries today.
For instance, robots are now known to perform a vast range of operations together with surgeons in hospitals, disinfecting public areas, and even acting as spies to observe wildlife and insects in their natural habitat.
This is especially the case in manufacturing. Industrial robots can handle materials, weld, paint, process meats and other foods, sand, assemble, and do so much more. There’s a place for robots in practically any manufacturing facility. With the correct end-of-arm tooling and programming, the possibilities of robots go far beyond just car building.
Myth 7: Robots are dangerous
Some robots, precisely the high-speed articulated Delta and SCARA robots, aren't intended to work closely with humans. Nevertheless, these robots are actually designed to enhance the safety of an application by taking over tasks that would be dangerous for human employees to carry out manually.
If humans were to carry out these tasks, the chances of an injury or accident would be much more significant. On the other hand, cobots are designed to work with human operators.
These robots have a lightweight design with minimal pinch points and rounded edges, and their safety devices can locate when someone has entered their area, enabling them to work at higher speeds in the absence of humans. When sharing tasks with their fellow human operators, these robots use sensors to identify possible collisions and instantly alter their path or slow down.
So, instead of seeing them as dangerous and hating robots for taking away jobs, just consider how they can take up monotonous, dirty, and dangerous tasks, so we humans can have more fulfilling, creative, and safer jobs.
Myth 8: Robots are responsible for job losses
This is one of the misconceptions that has raised a lot of suspicion, hostility and loathe towards industrial robots. Technological developments have taken over vast categories of jobs throughout much of history. Still, the end result has always been the creation of new types of jobs in a new economy rejuvenated by newfound efficiency and productivity.
Modern-day advancements in robotics are likely to have the same inspiring effect. For one thing, at present, the tasks that robots are best suited for are the typically hazardous and repetitive activities that employees find frustrating and dull.
When robots can free up human employees from monotonous tasks like cleaning up nuclear waste, industrial welding, and inspecting oil pipelines, job hunters must no longer consider opportunities that would put them in the way of harm.
Robots are not empathetic or creative. While they might be able to carry on a conversation with complex software programming, the depth, understanding, and underlying warmth are all missing. Moreover, robots can’t manage people or act as leaders the way humans can, nor can they effectively teach in classrooms.
Most jobs call for unique human traits. While some jobs might just be handed over on a plate to robots, it is usually for the best. These jobs are generally technical or dangerous for human beings, and letting robots take up these tasks leads to the creation of new jobs like robot technicians.
In addition, it is projected that 2.4 million jobs in manufacturing will stay unfulfilled between 2018-2028 due to the skill gap. Since there aren’t any qualified people to take up those jobs, robots come to the rescue to fill the gap.
Myth 9: Robots are time-consuming
While robots might appear complex, many manufacturers of industrial robots are working to make their programs more accessible and smoother to program and operate. A teach pendant or offline PC program enables operators to program robots easily.
If you’re hesitant about programming robots on your own, you can always outsource this job to robotic technicians.
Myth 10: Robots are not proven
Robots might seem experimental and new. However, they’re no longer a new application, rather they are a proven approach that enhances productivity and efficiency in the warehouse. The returns and outcomes are where you will find the proof.
New Roles for Robots
Usually, industrial robots have been used for various tasks deemed undesirable for human workers, which are described as dull, dangerous, and dirty jobs. In this regard, robotics systems offer substantial safety benefits to workers. Robots can aid in the prevention of adverse health effects or injuries resulting from working in harmful working conditions.
Some examples are traumatic injuries (such as in poultry processing where cuts are expected) or musculoskeletal disorders due to awkward or repetitive motions. They can also prevent numerous hazards in situations like chemical spills.
Apart from keeping workers safe and protecting them from harm, robots also mitigate the risks that stem from human error. If a particular job is boring and repetitive, humans are more likely to make a mistake, whereas robots can do these jobs time after time in the same way.
The robots of the next generation still carry out these kinds of jobs. Still, their ability to work closely with humans creates the potential for a vast array of applications. Interactions between robots and humans can involve handing off materials and parts or the human workers teaching the robots by guiding them via the desired move, which will be repeated by the robot.
Workers are just starting to explore the different possibilities for strategic robot-human partnerships. Cobot systems allow for partially automated tasks where human workers and robots can use their own strengths and abilities to the best effect.
Along with the sensitivity and flexibility of human touch and human creativity and problem-solving, you also have the precision, strength, consistency, repeatability, and endurance of a robot.
Wrapping Up: Don’t Be Afraid Of Automation
Misconceptions about industrial robots tend to create powerful feelings about their place in factories. However, all these misconceptions about robots in the workplace are myth-based. The facts show that industrial robots are here to stay for good.
Human workers have a lot to gain if we continue innovating and expanding our use of robots. Do not let these prevalent myths keep you from automating your workplace or facility. Automate with a robotic work cell and enhance your assembly line today.
There are a few jobs that robots perform much more efficiently than people. This includes anything that requires consistency, repetitive motion, precision, and speed. In fact, there are some miniaturized products that only robots can assemble.
Increased productivity and higher quality minimize costs, ultimately stimulating demand that is beneficial for everybody. More specifically, jobs are directly created in robots and related industries, in fields such as engineering, programming, integration, and end-effector design and manufacture.
Other jobs are created as manufacturing businesses grow, as well as greater opportunities from onshoring as reduced costs enable manufacturers to bring the work back to the United States soil.