The potential benefit of robots in the workplace

AI investment DXC Blogs

More than 2.5 million industrial robots will be working by 2019, according to the International Federation of Robotics (IFR). That figure represents an average annual growth rate of 12% from this year.

While some enterprise workers worry they eventually will be replaced by a machine, most see robots providing a valuable service (taking on tedious jobs) and leading to even more job opportunities for humans. And the IFR agrees.

In a new paper titled “The Impact of Robots on Productivity, Employment and Jobs,” the group laid out a number of reasons why robots in the workplace will benefit more than the enterprise bottom line.

Some highlights:

  • Robots increase productivity and competitiveness (when used effectively). “This is particularly important for small-to-medium sized businesses that are the backbone of both developed and developing country economies,” IFR says. “It also enables large companies to increase their competitiveness through faster product development and delivery. Currently, the greatest threat to employment is not automation but an inability to remain competitive.”
  • Increased productivity can lead to increased demand, creating new job opportunities. “These ‘spillovers’ can be seen within an individual organization, along an industry sector’s value chain, and in other sectors, particularly services.”
  • Automation has led overall to an increase in labour demand and positive impact on wages.“Robots are driving an increase in demand for workers at the higher-skilled end of the spectrum, with a positive impact on wages. The issue is how to enable middle-income earners in the lower-income range to upskill or retrain.”
  • Robots complement and augment labour. “The future will be robots and humans working together. Robots substitute labour activities but do not replace jobs. Less than 10% of jobs are fully automatable. Automation provides the opportunity for humans to focus on higher-skilled, higher-quality and higher-paid tasks.”

While the paper’s conclusions may be reassuring to enterprise employees, how this trend plays out will depend, in large part, on the ability of enterprise leaders and shareholders to view robots as more than a way to cut costs by eliminating jobs. On that front, I must say I’m not entirely convinced.


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