Tom Watson, deputy leader of the Labour party, will soon launch the final report of the Future of Work Commission, which has concluded that we should not fear the “march of the robots”. The report is a welcome change the typical narrative that has painted the rise of automation as something that will result in the death of the human workforce. Here, Nigel Smith, CEO of industrial robot provider, TM Robotics, explains why businesses need to be smart about how they invest in automation technology.
The Future of Work Commission’s report concludes that Britain’s low productivity, falling wages and inequality are down to poor government decisions, not automation. It also states that the UK’s financial system is not doing enough to fund high technology sectors.
These findings, along with Tom Watson stating “robots can set us free”, are the authoritative message that the automation sector needs to erode potential panic that robots will replace the human workforce. It is a welcome change from the typical scaremongering narrative that has resulted in 70 per cent of Americans being afraid of robots performing jobs humans currently do.
This should be a fresh start for the development and adoption of automation technology. However, businesses still need to be smart about how they invest in such technology. Just as this report is calling for sensibly targeted government investment to use the technology revolution to reverse the UK’s economic decline, manufacturers have to be just as targeted and sensible in selecting the robots to enhance their processes.
It’s easy to buy into the belief that upgrading to new automated processed requires a massive capital investment in the newest technology. This is why you can’t go to a trade show, read an article about robots or talk to anyone in the manufacturing and engineering sector without hearing about why you should buy a collaborative robot.
While this technology is exciting, it is not yet developed to the point of being effective enough to deliver the performance and return on investment to make it a smart investment for everyone. Industrial robots, such as SCARA, 6-axis and Cartesian robots, are better suited to keep up with demands of manufacturing processes.
Collaborative robots are not currently capable of performing to the speeds needed by most manufacturers, and incorporating them into an existing production line is a complex and costly process. Industrial robots will fit in easily and cells can be tailored to perform incredibly complex tasks quickly, without the need for a human to intervene or ‘train’ them.
As Watson said, “robots can set us free”, but only if we’re sensible about the robots we invest in.