Robots reduce labor costs. They also reduce the number of jobs done by people.
And though machines already perform many factory functions, a research report released last week projects that the trend away from human workers to robots will accelerate over the next decade.
The Boston Consulting Group forecasts the use of industrial robots will rise by 10 percent a year in the world’s top 25 exporting nations through 2025, a steep jump from the current 2 to 3 percent. Among the related predictions for that 10-year period: Robots will trim labor costs by 22 percent in the United States, 24 percent in Canada, 25 percent in Japan and 33 percent in South Korea.
Such a surge in global automation would boost the fraction of jobs done by machines from the present one-tenth to nearly one-quarter.
The driving force behind this relentless advance of technology over manpower is all too obvious. As Boston Consulting senior partner Harold Sirkin, co-author of the study, told The Associated Press:
“As labor costs rise around the world, it is becoming increasingly critical that manufacturers rapidly take steps to improve their output per worker to stay competitive. Companies are finding that advances in robotics and other manufacturing technologies offer some of the best opportunities to sharply improve productivity.”
The AP story added: “Robots are getting cheaper. The cost of owning and operating a robotic spot welder, for instance, has tumbled from $182,000 in 2005 to $133,000 last year, and will drop to $103,000 by 2025, Boston Consulting says. And the new machines can do more things. Old robots could only operate in predictable environments. The newer ones use improved sensors to react to the unexpected.”
Plus, the seemingly ever-rising costs of human labor include not just salaries, but health insurance, vacation time, sick time and other benefits.
Also this week, RBC Global Asset Management reported that reprogramming robots is a much quicker and less expensive process than retraining humans.
And Google released a video Monday showing off its upgraded robo-dog.
As for the rise of robots on the job, it isn’t limited to manufacturing enterprises. So if you want to avoid, or at least delay, being replaced by a machine, try to be more efficient at work.
Meanwhile, considering who — make that what — is moving up rapidly in the working world, try to be nice to robots, too.