Tom Keighley

Robots may not cost manufacturing jobs, research suggests

The introduction of robots to manufacturing, does not always spell job losses, a new research angle has pointed out.

The Positive Impact of Industrial Robots, recently published by the International Federation of Robotics in Tokyo, argues that automation and robots have contributed to job creation.

In addition to increasing productivity and efficiency, the study shows 3 million jobs have been directly created by the use of robots in recent years.

A further 1 million positions are expected to be generated across the world by 2016.

The research highlighted that robots are able to carry out work that is unsafe for humans, work that is not viable in a high wage economy, and work that would be impossible for humans.

The Government funded Automating Manufacturing Programme aims to increase UK manufacturing competitiveness, and is administered by the British Automation and Robot Association (BARA).

Mike Wilson, chairman of the BARA, said: “This is great news for British manufacturing.

“The IFR study highlights the importance of robotics to the future growth of UK industry and the jobs it will create as a result.

“The recently launched government funded Automating Manufacturing Programme is providing assistance to companies looking to use automation to improve competitiveness and drive growth.

“Together we can make UK manufacturing the best in the world and create the jobs that our country needs.”

The report found that between 2000-2008, manufacturing employment increased in nearly evey major industrialised country, as the use of industrialised robotics increased sharply.

China, Brazil, and other emerging markets are following suit, as during the study period, Brazil quadrupled its use of robotics, with both production and employment rising by over 20%.

Through the PPMA Group, up to £600,000 of funding will be supplied by the Government to promote automation in UK manufacturing.

Chief executive officer of PPMA group Chris Buxton, said: “We are delighted that the Government has put its full weight behind a programme that recognises the importance of automation in UK industry and the positive effect this has for growth and employment.”

Within the report, the Odense Steel Shipyard in Denmark, was used as an example of robots saving jobs in a high wage economy.

The company has invested in autonomous, robotic arc welding equipment that has proved key to efficiency savings.

Productivity increased six fold when compared with manual welding, speeded up production time and made quality improvements, whilst also protecting the jobs of qualified welders.

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