Manufacturing and Automation: The True Impact On Employment

Automation and robotics sometimes gets a bad rap among manufacturers. These robotic systems continue to become more advanced by the day, and people fear that they could be replaced entirely. However, automation has a host of benefits, and one of those actually includes creating more job opportunities. We will be discussing some of the notable benefits automation can bring to the manufacturing industry.

Let’s start with the most feared aspect of bringing automated systems onto the shop floor. There is an overwhelming fear that robots will begin taking jobs away from hard-working Americans. Yet, this might not be entirely true. It is true that robots can perform many of the jobs on the shop floor that require repetitive actions, like sorting and packaging, but this isn’t necessarily a bad thing in today’s modern manufacturing industry.

Manufacturers are having a very difficult time filling positions, and the workforce they do have available is already spread thin. Having the ability to eliminate mundane and repetitive tasks from a skilled manufacturer’s day can free them up to accomplish other, more important, tasks that require cognitive thinking and creativity. Spending their time sorting and packaging components is not a good use of their skills, letting a robot take over these positions can drastically increase the efficiency and productivity of the manufacturing workforce.

An interesting study was conducted surrounding automation and employment. The outcome may surprise you.  It showed that instead of industrial robots eliminating jobs, as more robots entered, employment followed that upward trend. The Association for Advancing Automation released a white paper in October 2015, focused on US robot shipments and nonfarm job growth. It is surprising to see that as more robots enter the workforce, job growth follows.

You can see more in the graph below –

US robot shipments nonfarm employment

“Image Sourced from bit.ly/1qRXden

Manufacturing has become incredibly advanced and the workforce is evolving. Businesses aren’t looking for the same kind of employee they were decades ago. Employees with manufacturing skills, as well as an understanding of the advanced systems and software that is prevalent in the modern manufacturing industry, is top priority. Computer skills are quickly becoming just as important as raw manufacturing knowledge. This is because as digital systems become more advanced, businesses need manufacturers that are comfortable with troubleshooting the inevitable issues that will arise with this technology.  Programming, IT, and computer skills are not something you would expect to see on a manufacturers resume, but these are the skills that are ideal for the advanced manufacturer.

Businesses are beginning to bring back operations to the US as they implement robots in their manufacturing processes. Efficiency, productivity and quality continue to rise as more manufacturers begin making use of today’s automation and robotics technology on the shop floor. Manufacturers are becoming more advanced, and so too is the workforce. Manufacturing is far from the dark, dirty and dangerous profession it once was, and automation is at the heart of it all. This is making the industry more appealing to the US workforce, and the cost savings from automation and robotics allows companies to be based here and still remain competitive.

It is critical to remember that manufacturing jobs are evolving and highly skilled professionals will be the next wave of industrial manufacturers. Baby boomers are retiring and many of their positions are becoming increasingly difficult to fill. Advanced automation systems and robotics can step up and perform these tasks while allowing highly-skilled manufacturers to focus on the most important jobs. Robotics and automation might not be the end of manufacturing, but instead, lead the industry toward a new beginning.

Sources:

http://themanufacturingconnection.com/2015/10/more-robots-do-not-equal-manufacturing-job-losses/

http://www.forbes.com/sites/timworstall/2016/04/11/people-are-still-getting-this-the-robots-will-steal-all-our-jobs-thing-wrong/?utm_source=twitterfeed&utm_medium=twitter#18bc78685fe4

http://www.automationworld.com/robotics/automation-brings-manufacturing-back-home