Robots Creating Jobs for Humans

Nov. 11, 2011
Robotics will be a major driver for global job creation over the next five years, according to a study conducted by the market research firm, Metra Martech.

Robotics will be a major driver for global job creation over the next five years, according to a study conducted by the market research firm, Metra Martech, and available through the International Federation of Robotics. The Positive Impact of Industrial Robots on Employment studied companies with more than 250 employees in the automotive, electronics, food and beverage, plastics, chemicals and pharmaceuticals industries.

The report focused on six countries considered representative of the global economy: Brazil, China, Germany, Japan, Republic of Korea and the United States.

One million industrial robots currently in operation have been directly responsible for the creation of close to three million jobs, the study concluded. 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 some of the most critical industries of this century: consumer electronics, food, solar & wind power, and advanced battery manufacturing to name just a few.

In additional to the million jobs expected to be directly created by the increased use of robotics, the report´s authors also highlighted 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’s authors state.

The Report highlights that between 2000-2008, 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 over 20%. The Report found that manufacturing employment is stronger in countries that continue to accelerate their robot investments.

"The German and Japanese [automotive] manufacturers who 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 continues.

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;
• robots carry out work that would not be economically viable in a high wage economy; and
• robots carry out work that would be impossible for humans.

Marlin Steel, in Baltimore, Md., 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, Marlin Steel´s CEO, 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.”

The report concludes that the growth of high tech industries such as the electronics and pharmaceutical sectors was significantly assisted by robots providing the required quality, precision, speed and traceability. Furthermore, the next generation of robotics will increase employment in the robotics industry itself. The report´s authors estimate that 300,000 people are already employed in the industrial robotics sector and an additional 45,000 people will be required by the industry within five years.