Scarce Labor is Fueling the Growth of Robotic Automation
Over the past few years there has been a major shift towards robotic automation across numerous industries. In the past the United States has been slower to adopt robotic automation than other industrialized countries. The number of workplace factory robots in the U.S. has always lagged behind countries in regions such as Asia and Europe. However, that has started to change as more companies are automating their operations. The biggest reason for the sudden shift is the ongoing labor crisis. 2021 was the year of “The Great Resignation” in which millions of workers left their jobs. Manufacturing jobs were amongst some of the hardest hit as workers are no longer willing to perform manual labor tasks. It is nearly two years later and the number of vacant jobs still vastly outnumbers available workers. Now companies are filling their open positions with the FANUC M-20ia and the Motoman HP20 along with other industrial robots.
In the past, many industries have been hesitant to adopt robotic automation. Factors such as the initial coast, inexperience with robot manipulators, and the fear of industrial robot arms overtaking human jobs have held many companies back from robotic automation. However, now manufacturers must automate in order to combat labor shortages. Fortunately, the factors that once were obstacles for companies to implement robotic automation have eased. Years ago the startup cost for automating was quite expensive, however, overall the cost of industrial robots has declined. There is also an extensive used articulated robot market that makes automating much more affordable now. Companies can find a high quality used industrial robotic arm and pay on average between 40% to 60% less than a new robot. The ABB 6640 is an excellent used six axis robot.
Robotic manipulators are also becoming easier to use, reducing their learning curve. Making manufacturing robot arms more user-friendly removes the intimidation factor for those new to robotic automation. Programming has become simplified with pre-programmed applications and offline software that eliminate having to develop lines of complex code. There has also been the development of collaborative robots which are extremely user friendly. The Universal UR10 along with other cobots can be setup within just a few hours as they do not require additional safety equipment and can be programmed with hand guidance. Cobots can safely operate alongside workers and programmed within minutes, making them ideal for novice robot users.
The fear that industrial robots would take away jobs from humans has also largely subsided. In the past companies were hesitant to embrace robots for fear of what it would do to their workforce. Now many realize robots are taking over the undesirable and dangerous jobs, the ones that workers no longer want. While handling robots are filling manual labor positions they are creating better, more desirable jobs for people. Robot operators, engineers, and technicians are all needed with the increase of robotic automation. These types of positions are ones workers are seeking as they tend to be better paying, safer, and more value driven. Creating better jobs for workers can help companies retain their workforce.