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The Impact of Robots on Industry

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The presence of automation in factories began with the third Industrial Revolution, with increasingly advanced and intelligent machines. If a few years ago this concept was part of our imagination, now, they are essential to companies’ industrial process.

Today, with a progressively competitive market and a gradually demanding consumer, companies are virtually facing the challenge to adapt their productive processes, using more advanced technologies, contributing to greater sustainability and optimization.

With this, a new industrial revolution arises, the so-called 4.0 industry, a term firstly mentioned in Germany, by the German government in 2011, driven by the arrival of innovative technologies that contributed to industries’ productive processes evolution, resulting in profound changes in both companies’ production systems and businesses.

Industrial automation in companies will transform people’s lives, bringing social and economic changes and an impact on jobs, in the near future.

In future, numerous companies’ productive processes will be controlled by robotic systems that will be able to cooperate, communicate and monitor as if they were human.

One of the questions that arise on this matter is whether humans will lose their jobs as the workforce is replaced by robotic equipment. There are many different opinions on this subject, but we can say, without a doubt, that the substitution of the human hand by automated processes could in fact generate new jobs.

A study released by CIP (Portugal Business Confederation), in partnership with McKinsey Global Institute and Nova School of Business and Economics, on the future of work in Portugal, states that automation in companies could contribute to the loss of 1,1 million jobs, but, on the other hand, that it could create between 600 thousand and 1.1 million new jobs.

Experts in this area argue that, undoubtedly, there will be a change in the way we work. As in all industrial revolutions in History, some jobs posts have been replaced by others.

Why is automation in industries important?

Automation is essential for the evolution of industrial processes, with countless advantages to the productive system, such as:

  • more control and improvement of processes,
  • flexibility in production,
  • improvement of human safety conditions,
  • reduction of the effort and intervention of human work,
  • reduction on the costs due to lower energy consumption and/or raw materials,
  • response to each company’s particular needs,
  • increase on competitiveness in view of a gradually demanding market.

The so-called smart plants will use a set of technologies such as Artificial Intelligence (AI), Robotics, Big Data (IOT) and Data Protection, that will allow automatic operation and enabling to process small and/or repetitive tasks, preventing, and avoiding technical failures that might jeopardize the productive process.

From employment’s perspective, new technical positions with new interdisciplinary competencies will be needed. These professionals are meant to follow the whole process, carrying out the programmed management of robotic equipment and, here, training will be of the utmost importance.

Any innovation on a company’s productive process requires some level of transformations but, in a certain way, it will bring enormous advantages, as previously described.

In the industry, the presence of robots is already a reality and it has changed the way we deal with the productive process. One of the greater challenges that many companies may face is their opening to the implementation of new technologies for their business and their commitment towards the qualification of human resources.

Surely, the presence of robots in the industrial context will increase the productive capacity, enabling to design products with higher quality, with a lower cost and a faster response capability.

As far as human resources are concerned, they can generate more skilled, more secure and less physically stressful jobs.

From the economic point of view, industry 4.0 will bring new opportunities for businesses, promoting the emergence of new business models. By integrating and improving new technologies, it may contribute to market positioning and higher business growth.