“Make Way for Cobots, the Collaborative Robots”

(Ron Harbour & Jim Schmidt, Brink – The Edge of Risk, 13 June 2018)

“Automated technology need not replace humans—instead, it can enhance workers' natural abilities and help make them more efficient.”

Workers see their jobs threatened by automated technology, but rather than replacing them, it will enhance their natural abilities and efficiency. In 2018 the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) analyzed businesses in 32 countries and determined that automation could affect one in seven jobs. More than 90% of the automotive industry is machine automated, but some firms are starting to recognize that the most efficient solution is humans. Humans simply need to be told, while robots and machines require time to reprogram. Collaborative robots and wearable technology (exoskeletons) can support workers in dangerous or repetitive jobs, enhancing the abilities of humans and making them more efficient. This can increase the working live of employees, which is above 40 in developed economies. Exoskeletons make workers stronger and reduce the stress on their bodies. An Oliver Wyman study determined a 9% gap in supply versus demand of aircraft mechanics over the next few decades. Collaborative robots, or cobots, can offer agility in work. Renault has implemented cobots to help humans in tedious tasks, as they cost under $50,000 each and are easy to reprogram, adding value and versatility. Automakers, such as Tesla, choose risky automation, hoping to reduce factory workforces, instead of using technology to increase the working lives of employees. In the future, factories will invest in R&D to develop new processes to do the work, so automakers should think of how to enhance and develop the lives of their employees.

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