Robots could create double the jobs they displace by 2022

Posted on 17 Sep 2018 by Maddy White

Will robots ever take your job? Latest research from the World Economic Forum suggests no. It forecasts that by 2022, robotics and AI could create over 130 million jobs, this almost double the figure they are set to displace.

WEF suggest that 133 million new roles could be created by AI - image courtesy of Depositphotos.
WEF suggest that 133 million new roles could be created by AI – image courtesy of Depositphotos.

The rapid evolution of machines, robots and algorithms in the workplace could create 133 million new roles in place of 75 million that will be displaced between now and 2022, according to the report.

The figures are based on a survey of business chiefs and top strategy executives from companies across 12 industries and 20 developed and emerging economies, which collectively account for 70% of global GDP.

Upskilling the workforce

It also found that just over half (54%) of employees of large companies would need significant re and upskilling in order to fully harness the growth opportunities offered by digital transformation. Surely that is a good thing? Employees could learn advanced robotics and other 4IR technologies in order to best apply this to businesses.

At a time when employees are more concerned than ever that robots will take their jobs, this report clearly shows that that is not likely to happen.

John Kirven, senior value proposition consultant at Canon, said to The Manufacturer that the report “will help address concerns around the rise of robotics and artificial intelligence and assure manufacturers and their employees that changes are not to be feared.”

He added: “Don’t get me wrong, technology will change the way jobs are performed, but this doesn’t need to mean redundancies, just like previous revolutions did not. Instead it will make factories more productive, with workers using their time to perform tasks to which they are more suited to than machines.”

The Manufacturer comes across examples of automation upskilling the workforce on a daily basis, here are three examples which prove robots will create jobs rather than take them.

Three case studies which prove robots will create jobs:

Case study: Igus

Introducing low cost robotics will upskill the workforce, Matthew Aldridge, managing director at Igus told The Manufacturer. Having recently launched a new pick and place robot, the drylin Delta Robot to enable smaller businesses to introduce automation in to their production, the company believe it will create jobs for businesses.

The Northampton-based company, whose expertise lies in the manufacture of energy chain systems and polymer plain bearings, has designed the robot to be lightweight and low cost.

Igus believe that the system has huge potential for the packaging industry, particularly for SMEs who wish to step into automation on their Industry 4.0 journey.

But how will this create jobs? Introducing the robot, Aldridge believes will enable the workforce to upskill – by not having to undertake repetitive tasks such as moving products onto and off production lines – and also expand businesses, resulting in a larger human workforce.

Case study: Macphie Ltd

Macphie's robot 'Cookie'.
Macphie’s robot ‘Cookie’.

Aberdeen-based bakery manufacturer, Macphie, invested in KUKA robot ‘Cookie’ last year. The robot stacks cookie dough pallets in the freezer at the Scottish factory, working in temperatures as low as -30 degrees celsius.

Operations director, Neil Freckingham, said to The Manufacturer the investment in automation was necessary, as previously an employee was working in the sub-zero conditions, which was just “not practical, safe or productive.”

Prior to the robot’s introduction, an employee would work for 10 minutes in the freezer before having to leave, this meant the freezer door was opened and closed more frequently, which led to moisture and ice forming and this resulted in hazards.

The robot works 16-hours a day in the harsh conditions, has removed manual handling, upskilled the workforce and has enabled a safer working environment, says Freckingham.

Read more about Cookie here, and why this example of upskilling the workforce was absolutely necessary.

Case study: Fourpure Brewery Co

Dan Lowe is pictured in the tap room selling Fourpure's popular craft beer, which is open to the public every day from noon.
Dan Lowe is pictured.

Fourpure Brewing Co, located in South Bermondsey, has been propelled because of the introduction of automation.

Founded by brothers Dan and Tom Lowe, the business has actually doubled both their staff count and revenue in just the last year, partly sue to automation.

Dan Lowe sat down with The Manufacturer and said: “We have already heavily invested in automation last year. Previously, the process was very manual, we would load every empty can to be filled and take every empty can off by hand.

“We were running at 30 cans a minute and we now run at 250 cans a minute, with the same number of operators.”

Introducing this has enabled the brewery to upskill the current workforce, and recruit more employees, while also improving the can filling process by more than eight times.

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