Will robots take your manufacturing job? Hint: No!

Posted on 26 Mar 2019 by Maddy White

The idea of robots stealing jobs is an increasing concern for the manufacturing sector and many others. Automation is here to stay and crucially support the future workforce, here is what you need to know.

The World Economic Forum suggests that robots and automation will create more jobs than they displace - image courtesy of Depositphotos.
The World Economic Forum suggests that robots and automation will create more jobs than they displace – image courtesy of Depositphotos.

Around 1.5 million jobs in England are at “high risk” of some of their duties being automated in the future, new analysis from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) shows.

The report analysed the jobs of 20 million people in England in 2017, and has found that 7.4% are at high risk of automation. 

It also reports that routine and repetitive tasks can be carried out more quickly and efficiently by an algorithm and this means the risk of automation tends to be higher for lower-skilled roles. 

However, the report does not estimate how many jobs might be created because of automation, or provide a timescale of when roles might be automated.

Robots will create more jobs than they replace

Research from the World Economic Forum suggests that robots will take jobs, but they will also create them. It forecasts that by 2022, robotics and AI could create over 130 million jobs, this almost double the figure they are set to displace worldwide.

The report, which was published in the latter half of 2018, revealed that 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 in the next three years.

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.

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.

This could enable employees to learn how to fix and programme robotics and other advanced technologies in order to best apply these to businesses.

 At a time when the population are more concerned than ever that robots will take their jobs, this report indicates that that’s not likely to happen. There will instead be a sizeable shift in the type of work they will undertake, higher-skilled and likely more varied, and that is not a bad thing. 

Robots will aid the manufacturing sector

The Manufacturer reported last month that robots active in the UK now number around 2,300 units, an increase of more than 30% on the previous year, according to figures compiled by the International Federation of Robotics.

Automation will assist the manufacturing workforce, and here at TM we frequently see examples of robots, cobots and automation aiding and reducing manual labour, freeing up operators’ time for more important tasks, and increasing productivity and therefore profits.

Recent factory visits that confirm this include: