Robots have been taking our jobs since the 1960s. So why are politicians and business leaders only now becoming so worried about robots causing mass unemployment? It comes down to the question of what a robot really is. While science fiction has often portrayed robots as androids carrying out tasks in much the same way as humans do, the reality is that robots take much more specialised forms. Traditional 20th-century robots were automated machines and robotic arms building cars in factories.
Robots have been taking our jobs since the 1960s. So why are politicians and business leaders only now becoming so worried about robots causing mass unemployment? It comes down to the question of what a robot really is. While science fiction has often portrayed robots as androids carrying out tasks in the much the same way as humans, the reality is that robots take much more specialised forms. Traditional 20th century robots were automated machines and robotic arms building cars in factories.
Industry has used robots for decades. They were once confined to safety cages in manufacturing facilities, programmed to perform one task perfectly, over and over again. Their purpose was to make high volumes of goods more quickly and cheaply. But advances in a number of technologies are springing robots from their cages, liberating them to work in new roles, in new industries, and with new benefits. Robots are changing far more than manufacturing--in industries ranging from retail to financial services, they are clambering onto the agendas of strategy, marketing, customer experience, and product leaders.
Since the first industrial robot, Unimate, was installed at a GM plant in the 1950s, industrial automation has been associated with big businesses running huge operations that involve massive production lines. The size, shape, and dynamics of industrial robots long reflected this reality. Industrial robots were big, noisy, massively powerful, and required their own cages to keep them well away from human workforces. A radical transformation in industrial automation has occurred over the past decade, and it's as much a technological shift as a consequence of the changing economy, one increasingly reliant on small runs, fast shipping, and nimble operations. A new generation of robots reflects these changes. They are quickly deployable, task-agnostic, smaller than their clunky forebears, and can work alongside humans outside of cages. To be sure, huge companies like Amazon, which acquired logistics robot maker Kiva for a staggering $775 million in 2012, have driven the shift in industrial automation.
Advancements in robotics continue to reshape packaging automation, with mobile robots becoming a more common choice for tasks such as materials transport and machine loading and unloading. Is it time for you to bring autonomous mobile robots (AMRs) into your packaging operation? Robot systems that feature an industrial robot on top of a mobile platform can help with optimization of material flow and packaging processes. Mobile robots' ability to move around the plant floor also offers production flexibility, as the units can travel among various packaging workstations and perform relevant work at each one. Working collaboratively with humans, mobile robots can reduce repetitive-stress injuries and alleviate fatigue-related human error, which in turn improves product quality and increases worker safety.