Most factories that have added automation, have also added jobs. Sound too good to be true? Think again. While in contention with the popular narrative that robots, automation, and AI will eventually rid the manufacturing industry of human jobs, study after study has said differently. Robot automation will actually create more jobs. Yes, robots will assume some of the more mundane jobs, but that leaves vast opportunities for people to develop improved skills that will provide a more skilled, different kind of role.
Even as technology and automation grow, it would be very difficult, and even unlikely, that manufacturers would completely remove humans from the process.
Tell Me More. Robot Automation Can Actually Create More Jobs, Why?
Technology is simply changing the way we work. Deloitte released a study of manufacturers in the U.K., and what they found was not unlike the thoughts we’re expressing now. The study found that 800,000 low-skilled jobs were eliminated due to the rise of automation, but get this – 3.5 million jobs were created, and those jobs paid an average $13,000 more per year.
Another study, conducted by the International Federation of Robotics (IFR), found that manufacturers will benefit from the use of robots. “It is a picture in which small-to-medium-sized companies (SMEs), which account for over 90% of businesses in most economies, are better able to compete, and to assume new roles in global supply chains,” the report stated.
IFR laid out 9 key findings:
- Automation is driving job creation.
- Human labor will remain competitive.
- Most experts in the three industries covered in the report – manufacturing, logistics, and healthcare – predict a future in which humans and machines work together.
- Automation can create rewarding job profiles for workers.
- Robots make work safer and less physically demanding.
- A shortage of qualified employees is holding back growth.
- Process expertise is as, or more important than pure IT skills in manufacturing and logistics.
- Experts call for tighter collaboration between industry, government, and educational institutions.
- Governments will need to develop policy initiatives to encourage corporate investment in training, and/or step up their funding of education.
The findings are in support of what we’ve been saying all along – robots will not replace humans, rather, they will encourage people to expand their knowledge. In ‘The Toyota Way’, author Jeffrey K. Liker talks about the importance of “employee involvement” through encouragement and support. ” On a daily basis, engineers, skilled workers, quality specialists, vendors, team leaders, and – most importantly – operators are all involved in continuous problem solving and improvement,” Liker says, “which over time trains everyone to become better problem solvers.” Essentially, “The Toyota Way means more dependence on people, not less.”
The Answer is Creativity.
What is the reasoning behind automation actually creating jobs?
The surge of automation in manufacturing is prompting humans to move into roles that require more skill, but that doesn’t mean their role on the line is or will be, eliminated. Humans inherently know when a machine or process is not operating correctly. Their instincts, smell, touch, or sound could provide that insight or simply, the experience gained from years of operating the machine can alert them of an issue.
Whereas, a robot will not be equipped with the knowledge to preemptively know when a process is not running correctly based on those insights. A robot can easily place a book into a box on a line, but if that robot, machine, or process breaks, the machine cannot proceed and a human will need to step in to fix the problem.
While this is an incredibly basic example, it paints a picture of the roles people need to fill once more and more technology is implemented on the factory floor.
Human Characteristics Still Reign Supreme
Automation is changing the way we work, that much is true, but it’s also changing the value we place on the skills of employees. Manufacturers are developing programs to provide more training and education, creating a more skilled workforce. The driving force behind it? You guessed it, robots. It’s no surprise that we’re coming back to our big point here – robot automation will actually create more jobs.
As technology evolves, there is one thing that people will inevitably always do better – creativity. To fix a difficult problem, you have to think creatively about how to fix that problem. Need to transform your plant? Creativity.
The lesson we can learn from Industry 4.0 is to embrace the characteristics that make employees, human. And then, apply those characteristics to your factory line to improve and grow.
Deloitte: From Brawns to Brains – The Impact of Technology on Jobs in the UK
VentureBeat: Automation Replaced 800,000 Jobs…. Then Created 3.5 Million New Jobs
Plant Engineering: Robotics Will Drive Job Growth, Study Finds