ROBOTS TRAPPED BETWEEN A
ROCK & A HARD PLACE
The dilemma posed by robotics is highlighted by two reports
published this month. A report in the Luxembourg Times
notes that an increased use of robots is probably behind a
decline in total employment rates in 11 emerging Eastern European
countries. Conversely, in the UK, the lack of investment is making
Robots will also help fill job shortages in a region, like the UK,
with an ageing population where companies complain that they
can’t find enough skilled people to fill open positions. According to
the EBRD, while some types of work will become obsolete, other
jobs in more productive sectors will emerge.
With the use of industrial robots rising globally, the average
worker in Slovakia - the world’s top car producer per capita - faces a
62% median probability that his or her job will be automated “in
the near future”, according to the London-based European Bank for
Reconstruction and Development (EBRD).
Workers in Lithuania are only slightly less at risk, and the chance
hovers at around 50-50 for employees in Slovenia, Poland, the
Czech Republic and Estonia. Robots will be most used in textiles,
agriculture and manufacturing.
Foreign-direct investment is a main driver. Slovakia and Slovenia
use about 93 robots for every 10,000 manufacturing workers, the
highest ratios in the EBRD region and comparable to the level seen
in Brazil, China and South Africa..
Technological innovations are quickly shifting the balance
between activities performed by humans and tasks performed by
machines, the report continues. In manufacturing, the percentage of
jobs that are at risk of automation may be particularly high.
In contrast, in the UK, firms seem to be taking the easier and
‘safer’ option by investing in labour rather than new technologies.
“It’s understandable that firms with smaller budgets are hesitant to
scrap their existing machinery in favour of newer technologies, but
it is equally ineffective to simply hire new staff without investing in
the right technologies and connected systems for them to operate,”
says Jason Chester, director of Channel Programs for InfinityQS, a
specialist in data-driven manufacturing. “Advancements in the IIoT
and cloud-based data analytics now offer manufacturers the ability
to operate far more efficiently, enabling them to accurately monitor
and adjust their operations in real-time so they can remain
competitive and adapt to an increasingly unstable global market."
Chester says that economic uncertainty fuelled by Brexit, in
conjunction with the gradual decline of high-street retailers and a
contracting construction sector is having a negative effect on
supply-chain demand and restricting further growth. As a result,
UK manufacturing industry appears to be in a state of constant flux.
“Unfortunately, the lack of understanding surrounding
technological innovations, including robotics, industrial Internet of
Things (IIoT), automation, manufacturing intelligence, cloud
computing, Big Data, and artificial intelligence, has meant
manufacturers are hesitant to go digital," Chester adds. "The
manufacturing sector is the backbone of the economy, currently
employing approximately 2.6
million people and accounting for
44% of total exports. Firms that
take the initiative to future-proof
their manufacturing operations
by prioritising investment in IIoT
and intelligence solutions will be
able to navigate their challenges
to emerge as leaders in the fourth