By Jonathan Wilkins, Marketing Director, EU Automation
From the cute waste collector, WALL-E to the terrifying Terminator, films seem to portray robots similarly — overthrowing humanity. In reality, robots are rapidly appearing in manufacturing facilities, but are they taking over? This article explains how automation is impacting the US manufacturing workforce.
Increased automation has changed the manufacturing industry in the US. Manufacturers are rapidly introducing robotics to the assembly line. In fact, North American companies bought 32 per cent more robots in 2017 than in the same period in 2016.
Manufacturers are introducing robots to the factory to meet customer demands as they can quickly and efficiently complete tasks to increase productivity and help companies remain competitive. As manufacturers rely more on technology, the human workforce will need to adapt to make the most of the new technology available to them.
A recent report by the McKinsey Global Institutepredicts that between 39 million and 73 million jobs in the US could be lost to automation.
The actual number will depend on how rapidly the country adopts automation in each sector, how the growing aging population will change demands and how each sector will have to adapt to support economic growth.
Loss and Creation
It may appear that automation will only negatively impact employment in the US. However, reports suggest that the introduction of robotics will create jobs to change different industries.
The McKinsey report implies that around 20 million workers that could lose their job to automation will find it fairly easy to find work in a similar occupation. Those who cannot will have to retrain and work in entirely new occupations.
However, this is not new to us. The workforce has evolved many times to make way for technology. Jobs such as switchboard operators and elevator operators are now obsolete, but people found ways to retrain and find work in other sectors.
The Types of Jobs
Robots can complete many blue-collar jobs currently completed by humans more quickly and more accurately. Technology optimises production but needs humans to make a difference. There are jobs in a range of industries that require human qualities, such as intuition, creativity and care.
Many manufacturers automate tasks that are repetitive, straining and time-consuming for humans. Instead, the human workforce can move to roles that require more soft skills such as collaboration, communication and problem-solving.
Some people may also choose to move across sectors. As education improves, people will have a wider range of skills that they can apply to roles in different sectors and choose to move around different job roles rather than staying in a similar role throughout their working life.
The bottom line is that we will not be able to stop the rise and march of the robot, it is a fact of life. How we as humans react and change to it is the key. New job training, new careers will be available as the robot takes over certain sectors but as a species we have adapted and we will again with different industries to conquer and to grow.