One million industrial robots currently in operation have been directly responsible for the creation of close to three million jobs, according to a study conducted by market research firm Metra Martech for the International Federation of Robotics. Additionally, a growth in robot use over the next five years will result in the creation of one million high-quality jobs around the world. Robots will help to create jobs in critical industries, including consumer electronics; food; solar and wind power; and advanced battery manufacturing.
In additional to the jobs expected to be directly by the increased use of robotics, the report’s authors noted that saving manufacturing jobs also results in saving jobs throughout the community. This means that restaurants, shops and the service economy also benefit from this ripple effect.
“In world terms, three to five million jobs would not exist if automation and robotics had not been developed to enable cost effective production of millions of electronic products, from phones to Playstations,” the report explained.
Between 2000 and 2008, manufacturing employment increased in nearly every major industrialized country, even as the use of robotics increased sharply. This same pattern is now being seen in China, Brazil, and other emerging countries as they rapidly increase their use of robotics. In Brazil, the number of robots almost quadrupled during the study period, with both production and employment rising by more than 20%.
The Report found that manufacturing employment is stronger in countries that continue to accelerate their robot investments. It noted that the German and Japanese (automotive) manufacturers that have invested heavily in automation and robots have maintained a lead in the quality market. Germany has increased the number of people employed in the automotive sector.
The report’s author, Peter Gorle, highlighted three critical areas of growth in robotic deployment where robots carry out work:
• in areas that would be unsafe for humans
• that would not be economically viable in a high wage economy, and
• that would be impossible for humans.
Marlin Steel in Baltimore is an excellent illustration of the points made in the report regarding the advantages of using robots within an unsafe working environment. Since Marlin began introducing automation a dozen years ago, not only has the company benefited, but so have the employees.
Drew Greenblatt, CEO of Marlin Steel, bought the company in 1998. At that time, its employees were paid $6/hour with no benefits and they typically produced 300 hand bends in an hour.
“It was a boring job and an unsafe job, with a low level of quality”, said Greenblatt. “Now our employees are paid $25 to $30/hour including bonuses, overtime and great benefits. Each employee oversees four robots that produce 20,000 CNC bends in an hour and the quality has sky rocketed, Last year was our most successful one as a business, exporting to more than 30 countries. We’ve increased our workforce by more than a quarter. Thanks to the robots, jobs at Marlin are both interesting and safe.”
Shipbuilding in Europe has been in steep decline over the last two to four decades, but robots have been key to efficiency savings at the Odense Steel Shipyard in Denmark. The company has invested in an autonomous, robotic arc welding system that has yielded big dividends. Odense Steel Shipyard has increased productivity by a factor of six when compared with manual welding, speeded up the production time and made quality improvements, while also protecting the jobs of qualified welders.
The report explained that the growth of high tech industries such as the electronics, semiconductor and pharmaceutical sectors was significantly assisted by robots. There, robot provide the required quality, precision, speed and traceability that cannot be achieved manually.
It concluded, “The future of robotics will be one of much greater ubiquity. Miniaturization and new sensing capabilities will mean that robotics is used in an increasing number of industries, including those with small and varying lot sizes, materials and product geometries.”
International Federation of Robotics
Filed Under: Mechanical, Motion control • motor controls, Mechatronics