September 29, 2017
The assembly line reigned as the leading form of manufacturing for over a century, but these days, the era of assembly lines is becoming obsolete. Manufacturing is heading in a new direction, with the use of robotics as the future wave of production. Of course, the reality of robots in production lines is far different from what most people picture. The robots won’t look like those seen in movies --or at least, not for a very long time. That being said, we can expect industrial robots to be responsible for 25 per cent of tasks by the year 2025 in The United States. This will include mainly roles like assembly, packaging, and material handling. There will be significant diversity even within the types of robotics utilized.
Robots in the Workforce
The U.S. Bureau of Labour Statistics states close to 5 million manufacturing jobs have been made obsolete over the last 2 decades due to increased reliance automation. Automation is a blanket term for any kind of machinery which makes a job automatic that would otherwise require human labour. Instances of automation can be seen everywhere. Think self-checkout in grocery stores, this is an example of automation. It is only expected to increase in the coming years with self-driving cars in development. These will be on the road within the next 10 years according to some reports, so it should be no surprise that automation is growing in the manufacturing and packaging industries. This kind of labour is easier to reproduce with machines because it is repetitive and requires a smaller range of motions compared to other positions. The preciseness or machines also make them ideal in these tasks.
Collaborative robots are being increasingly incorporated into the manufacturing process. These are robots that can be used while humans are present. Most kinds are kept behind fences as a safety precaution. There is one kind that requires no additional safety features, and it is expected that more like this will be developed for efficiency’s sake. The presence of any kind of collaborative robot is good for efficiency. They typically have a higher output than humans and since robots have the ability to work without getting tired or requiring breaks, this advancement is revolutionary as it can mean programming with new abilities, rather than training staff.
Automation’s presence has already started to change the face of production and packaging, and will only continue this process. In fact, another, more drastic change to these industries is in 3D printing. Essentially, it is a process in which machinery creates layers of material under computer controls in order to create a 3-dimensional object. This is a different process than automation. Robots are essentially doing the same job that their human counterparts do. They are designed to do the work effectively and quickly, but the task itself has seen little change. 3D printing changes the process all together. Rather than factories with big machinery in it, these printers rely on software to do the work. Voodoo Manufacturing in Brooklyn, New York is one new company pioneering this form of production. They manufacture everything from keychains to shower heads through 3D printing. It is still in its early stages but the potential for this kind of technology is endless. It is being used to create small objects but there is hope for it to even one day be able to produce organs for transplants.
What that Means for You
A lot of people are concerned with what all of this technology means for the job market. They see the jobs cut in the manufacturing and labour sectors and are scared to see what this trend in automation will do, and if job loss will continue, as a result of it. The reality of the matter is that the demand for different kinds of jobs and skills have always changed with the times. With the rise of robotics and software the need for labour has decreased, but the demand for skilled technicians and engineers are on the rise; especially those who can repair and fix the machines right before or soon after they break down. It is a good time to look into getting a technical certificate, as well as mechanical training. Places like George Brown College are a good place to look to get your technician training certificate.These are skills that are sought after in today’s job market and the demand will continue as robots’ numbers increase because of a need for maintenance and installation.