The statistics mainly point to reduction in employment in manufacturing in the developed countries, but this is often a small reduction. It coincides with an increase in output and an increase in robotics use except in the case of Japan.
The extra number that have gained employment in the years 2000 to 2008 is far greater than the small numbers losing their jobs in manufacturing.
The new jobs have been in:
1) distribution and services, Some of the distribution jobs are the result of manufacturers outsourcing their distribution. In the past these jobs would have been classified as part of manufacturing.
2) and also in new manufacturing applications, particularly using technology advances to create new consumer products [mobile phones, computers, games etc].
In the industrialising countries, as could be expected, there has been a sharp rise in employment in manufacturing, as well as increase in output.
Productivity increases are not just caused by automation and robotics, but it is one of three main factors, along with increased size of manufacturing plants and the globalisation of sourcing. Note: while the IFR numbers provide a clear basis from which to work, it has not always been possible to separate robotics from automation in our analyses.
Displacement and re-employment
Where automation displaces people in manufacturing it almost always increases output. In some cases it allows such an increase in production and related decrease in unit price, that it creates a whole new market and generates the need for downstream jobs to get the product to the consumer. It releases employees for other, often new jobs outside manufacturing. Historically, this has always been the case.
An alternative view is that this displacement in the future will be more difficult to place, as service robotics may take over many of the new job opportunities in human tasks such as in banking, fast food chains, and retailing petrol forecourts.
What is likely is that the growth of the production, marketing, selling and maintaining service robots will create the next wave of employment.
Potential for new job creation in the years up to 2016
700,000 to 1 million new jobs should be created by robots in the next five years.
There are five main areas where new jobs may be created in the next five years by the use of robotics.
I. Continued development of new products based on the development of electronics and communication technology. One of the new areas identified, for example, is the manufacture of service robots. Another is the development and mass adoption of renewable energy technologies.
II. Expansion of existing economies and industries, notably automotive.
III. Greater use of robotics in the SME sectors, particularly in the developed countries, to protect or win back manufacture from the low cost countries, or to win back production which had been seen as hazardous, but which had been taken up by the developing countries.
IV. Greater use of robotics in the food sector [where current use is low] as processed meals develop, to meet more stringent hygiene conditions.
V. Expansion of the robotics sector itself, to cope with the growth in demand. We have assumed a 15% growth which adds 45,000 people.
An Example and a case study
A study by Analysis Group found that Apple has directly or indirectly created 304,000 U.S. jobs.* These jobs — spread across all 50 states — include thousands of jobs in numerous industries, from the people who create components for our products to the people who build the planes and trucks that carry them to our customers. For example, this figure also includes workers in Texas who manufacture processors for iOS products, Corning employees in Kentucky and New York who create the majority of the glass for iPhone, and FedEx and UPS employees. Together with the 210,000 iOS jobs generated by the app economy, these 304,000 jobs make a total of 514,000 U.S. jobs created or supported by Apple.
Worldwide the number of jobs is probably several times higher.
Customer Automation for better global competitiveness
Plastics Technology – Unit costs can be reduced through customer-specific automation. It is not only in high-wage countries that this realization plays an increasingly important role. Rather, wage costs, quality, energy usage, and the avoidance of rejects are increasingly important topics in every production plant around the world.
The economic advantages associated with automation are illustrated in the comparison of three alternatives for the production of a toy car. For this product, consisting of four individual parts, two metal axles must be inserted into a mold in order to mold on the wheels. At the same time, the roof and chassis are injected in the same mold. Subsequently, the parts are assembled to form the complete car. The weight of the molded parts is 18 grams of polypropylene.
For this comparatively simple task, three solutions were developed, in order to demonstrate the respective advantages in practice:
•Manual production using a vertical hydraulic Allrounder V injection machine
•Production cell with a horizontal hydraulic Allrounder S and Multilift V linear robot
•Production cell with a vertical hydraulic Allrounder V in conjunction with a six-axis Kuka robotic system
The break-even point for the production cell with linear robot is approximately 550,000 parts and with a six-axis robotic system, about 750,000 parts.
Unit costs can be significantly reduced through automation. As the example for the production of a toy car demonstrates, a reduction in unit costs of nearly 50% is realistic at personnel costs of 15 euro/hr. The additional costs of automation are amortized within one year. So automation pays, and not only in high-wage countries.
Brian Wang is a Futurist Thought Leader and a popular Science blogger with 1 million readers per month. His blog Nextbigfuture.com is ranked #1 Science News Blog. It covers many disruptive technology and trends including Space, Robotics, Artificial Intelligence, Medicine, Anti-aging Biotechnology, and Nanotechnology.
Known for identifying cutting edge technologies, he is currently a Co-Founder of a startup and fundraiser for high potential early-stage companies. He is the Head of Research for Allocations for deep technology investments and an Angel Investor at Space Angels.
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