Manufacturers: Robots Are Friends, Not Foes

Posted By: Jeff Krause, Chief Executive Officer, SME on April 12, 2018

When I think about robots, a few things come to mind: Automation, smart manufacturing, artificial intelligence, R2-D2, WALL-E and better opportunities for workers. Robots have clearly impacted pop culture, but also many industries throughout the U.S. including agriculture, healthcare, defense, and manufacturing. This week, April 7-15, we celebrate National Robotics Week (#RoboWeek) to acknowledge the importance of the robotics industry, especially in relation to manufacturing.

Manufacturers have been utilizing robots since the early 1960s to help improve productivity and consistency. Industrial robots changed the game by taking over repetitive, tedious jobs, creating a safer factory environment for workers. Large manufacturers saw this positive impact and further invested in the advantages enabled by robotics – reliability, repeatability, precision and safety in process and production. Fast-forward nearly 60 years, and robots are an indispensable part of our industry. Today, the opportunities within automation and robotics are limitless, but it seems not everyone is sold on such emerging technologies.

Some people are worried, even though automation creates better jobs with advanced skills and healthy compensation. According to Pew Research, more than 70 percent of Americans fear a future where robots can perform many human occupations. My perspective is that we should not fear robotics, but embrace the changes and opportunities brought with this technology.

Analysis by PwC of data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics found that the most robotics-intensive manufacturing sectors in the U.S. employ about 20 percent more mechanical and industrial engineers and nearly twice the number of installation maintenance and repair workers than do less robotics-intensive manufacturing sectors as well as pay higher wages than other manufacturing sectors. These sectors also tend to have a higher proportion of production-line workers, and these workers earn higher wages than sectors that are less robotics intensive.

Like technology, changes in the workforce are inevitable; just as the mechanization of farming did not destroy the economy and lead to mass, long-term unemployment, neither will today’s automation. Newer collaborative robots work alongside their human colleagues, while new jobs and opportunities designing, installing, programming and maintaining these systems have been created. The fourth industrial revolution continues to advance technologies like robotics and it’s imperative we continue to inspire, train and retain a high-tech, skilled manufacturing workforce to keep up with those changes.

SME supports the adoption of advanced technologies like robotics by providing access to the latest news and information through SME Media, hands-on experiences at our events, and Tooling U-SME workforce training. For nearly 60 years, robotics has positively impacted the manufacturing industry, and I’m proud to be a part of an organization that advocates and celebrates such innovation.

Article was originally published on LinkedIn.

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Tags: "advanced technologies", automation, manufacturing, "National Robotics Week", "Pew Research, U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics", robotics, robots, "SME Media", "Tooling U-SME"