According to Kiplinger’s, Elkhart, Indiana leads the nation in most robots per capita. Elkhart has seen “a boom in manufacturing related to the city’s thriving bus- and RV-making industries,” noted The Kiplinger Letter in its March, 2018 issue.
With a strong economy giving rise to increased demand for RVs and cities ordering new business now that finances have improved, denizens of Elkhart are employed to the max and they, and the factory robots, are busy working overtime. Kiplinger’s notes how Elkhart’s “tech-savvy workforce is drawing more manufacturers to the region, including boat builders,” and concludes with the comment that it’s a success story “other regions will be trying to emulate.”
Meanwhile, as The Wall Street Journal reports recently, robots are taking over some of the jobs that, frankly, you’d want them to. Like picking up scalding-hot auto parts from an oven and inspecting them for safety, as happened at a Robert Bosch plant in Germany. Not only does the robot reduce exposure to serious injury to the human worker, but that human worker now has the time to test 20% more parts than he did before the robots arrived.
So which industries are helped the most by automation, both for the employer and the employee?
Those who have, in the words of Journal editor William Wilkes, “cracked the code” are those that “can assign repetitive, precise tasks to robots, freeing human workers to undertake creative, problem-solving duties that machines aren’t very good at.“ That means, in short, manufacturing, the food sector and certain service sectors jobs such as billing, where time spreadsheets can be automated, freeing up workers to do higher-value tasks.
None of the above should come as a surprise, logically speaking. Bosch factories worldwide how use 140 robotic arms, up from zero just 7 years ago, and as a result, an engineer there said “We can’t see robots having a negative impact on our workforce.”
As it turns out, robots and computers are best suited to repetitive – even if very highly or complex math-based – tasks, from playing chess or repeating a set of precise movements, while they pale in comparison to humans in the seemingly mundane tasks like brushing your teeth or running through the woods.
In the end, tasks best left to humans remain those that require involving judgment and quality control, while leaving the heavy lifting – often, quite literally – to the machines.
In our concluding post on robots in industry today, we’ll take a quick look at where they’ve made most sense, and what impact they’ve had on employment and the types of jobs they are creating today. So, stay tuned…