Recent study underlines the effect of industrial robots

Søren Peter Johansen

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Recent study underlines the effect of industrial robots

According to Danish manufacturing companies, robots are an almost indisputable source of increased competitiveness. This is confirmed by a new study from a Danish newspaper. Robots work quickly, stable and effectively, do not fall ill, deliver consistent products, decrease waste and increase product quality. Moreover, robots in the production lower the need for outsourcing.

A study conducted by the Danish weekly newspaper "Ugebrevet A4" confirms these positive effects, which mean that robots contribute to strengthening the competitiveness of Danish manufacturing - against low-wage countries - as well as the bottom line in every single company. 213 manufacturing companies participated in the robot study. About half of these companies had already installed robots, and 58 % of those with robots already installed have concrete plans of expanding the robot population further.

And it is easy to see why more than half of the companies with robots already installed have plans of expanding with further automation, because the benefits are clearly visible. Among the participating manufacturing companies, the answers speak for them selves. The study explicitly shows that the manufacturing companies are indeed satisfied with the effect that their robots add to the production:

Increased competitiveness: 84 % of the participating companies answered that robots have "increased" or "strongly increased" their competitiveness. This may be due to the robots' quick pace of work, stability, effective use of resources and similar factors.

Better quality: 63 % of the companies with robots installed answered that robots have "increased" or "strongly increased" the quality of their products. And not only is the quality increased considerably, the robots are at the same time able to produce homogeneity to a degree which most people would find boring and which would be physically harmful. Moreover, most people would not even be able to handle the task with the same precision as a robot.

Less outsourcing: 31 % of the companies with robots installed answered that robots have lowered their need for outsourcing. Only 2 % answered that robots have increased their need for outsourcing. Hence, robotic solutions appear as a very attractive way of keeping Danish manufacturing competitive and thereby securing future jobs.

More jobs
In connection with the study, Head of DTI, Robot Technology, Claus Risager, comments:

"The way I view these statistics, and compared to the latest studies in the USA and Denmark, carried out by IFR (International Federation of Robotics) among others, they show that robots create jobs in the long run. In the very short run, a local reduction in jobs may appear, but within just a few years the number of jobs will generally grow."

This viewpoint is supported by Adil Shafi, President at Advenovation:

"Industrial robots are helping to create millions of new jobs worldwide with their cost justification based business cases, improved quality of manufacture, production rate gains and operational reliability.  This trend continues to progress in a positive manner. Robots are now being embraced in both countries of high cost labor as well as countries of low cost labor." For further elaboration of the comment, see Adil Shafi's articleHow Robots Create Jobs posted at RIA - Robotics Online.

However, it will be a different kind of jobs than we have seen so far. Claus Risager continues:

"The new jobs will be of another character than the previous jobs in the sense that they demand a higher level of education and competencies. Therefore, it has got to be a declared strategy that unskilled workers focus on becoming skilled workers, and that young people without an education today seek to complete a technical or business-related education. This is crucial in order to be able to actualise the upcoming years' growth in manufacturing and manufacturing jobs - because they will follow in the footsteps of the increasing robot automation."

Lots of untapped potential
Today, many industrial tasks are carried out manually, and robots therefore still contain great untapped potential.

"About 85 % of all industrial montage tasks in Europe are handled manually. Automated solutions already exist for a number of these procedures, but especially in the handling and processing of small batches there are only a few cost-effective automated solutions on the market. That is clearly a problem, since it decreases the competitiveness towards countries with low wages. Combined with the small year groups coming up and the increased burden from the elderly in the society, it is a serious threat against the welfare in the Western World," says Team Leader at DTI, Robot Technology, Søren Peter Johansen and he continues:

"For this reason, a number of initiatives to counter this threat have been initiated on a national and a European level. Among these are a couple of projects with the overall concept 'Robot Co-Worker'. The concept describes a robot assistant and is a type of robot that is easily moved, configured and trained by people without in-depth knowledge about robots. As revealed by the name, this robot type will not only replace human beings but to a great extent work alongside human beings."