Robots as our new team members: How Industry 4.0 has changed the workforce
11 January 2018
Paradigm Electronics, a loud speaker and subwoofer manufacturer, has implemented robots to assist with product polishing. Humans collaborate with the robots but no longer perform the entire time consuming and laborious task themselves. In fact, most jobs have been altered in some way by the introduction of Industry 4.0. Here, Jonathan Wilkins, marketing director of obsolete industrial automation parts supplier, EU Automation, explains how job roles are changing with Industry 4.0.
There have been a lot of concerns and misconceptions about robots stealing people’s jobs. The truth is, while some jobs are being replaced by automated equipment, new jobs are also arising as a result of Industry 4.0. Therefore, a more relevant concern is how Industry 4.0 will change the nature of people’s jobs.
Keeping the doctor away
Many companies are using automated equipment to take over physical, strenuous tasks, improving the health and safety of their staff. For example, when the demand for a supplier of bulk bottles of windscreen washer fluid increased, the staff began to get tired and obtain injuries. The company introduced robots to manoeuvre the bottles, reducing excessive manual handling for staff.
This can be of even greater benefit for older workers, especially with the increasing retirement age causing the average age of the workforce to rise.
Recent advancements in sensor technology have enabled Industry 4.0 to thrive. Sensors can be attached to industrial plant equipment to detect anomalous activity. This means that problems with the equipment can be identified and resolved before they result in machine downtime. As a result, plant operators and managers are spared the stress and financial burden associated with outages.
Predictive maintenance has also changed the role of equipment maintenance engineers as they no longer have to visit a site before buying the parts required. From any location, they can receive data from the sensors and use it to identify the problem and the parts needed, making their work more productive and efficient.
Where robots don’t make the cut
Automated equipment is capable of extremely complex and challenging tasks that humans cannot possibly achieve. However, there are still things that we can do far better than robots can.
One way that humans triumph over robots is in their capability to make decisions. Additionally, because humans can think and act more flexibly, they are often better problem solvers. Moreover, many industries rely on creativity, innovation and individual personalities, something that would be missed in a company run entirely by robots. Therefore, even once Industry 4.0 is fully established, human input will still be required.
Like Paradigm Electronics, many companies have already embraced robots as part of their workforce. As robotics become more familiar in the industrial environment, how will careers change in years to come?
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