Automated systems are becoming more and more prevalent in today’s workplace, and in some industries, they’re changing the way things have traditionally been done. In some cases, they are actually replacing jobs that are usually done by humans, leading some to fear that robots will eliminate thousands of jobs. However, in most of these cases, humans are still needed to program the robots and oversee their work to make certain mistakes aren’t made. Here are some ways automated technology and robots are changing the workplace.
Automated Warehouse Systems
A number of different retail companies, especially online retailers, are making use of automated warehouse systems that use robots to select items stored in inventory and bring them to the order fulfilment area for packing. These systems work by using a system of scannable barcodes to identify each item in the warehouse. While these systems are in place only in large warehouses at the moment, their success does show that they could someday be implemented in warehouses of all sizes.
Individuals already have robotic vacuums that clean the floors and can intelligently get themselves unstuck should they become trapped, and many industries have adapted this technology for cleaning much larger areas. Robots that can power wash areas, sweep up debris, and vacuum spaces in a fraction of the time a person will free up staff members from doing mundane tasks.
Robotic systems are being integrated into manufacturing plants to more accurately and quickly build items such as cars and electronics. Robotic welding systems are capable of making welds that are uniform and consistent, overcoming some of the shortcomings of a human welder who can make mistakes. These robots are becoming more and more advanced and affordable, making them attractive alternatives to human workers. While a person needs to take frequent breaks, especially if he or she is performing the same action over and over on the assembly line, a robot doesn’t need to. This can help reduce health issues such as carpal tunnel syndrome in workers.
Another use of robotics is in maintenance, especially maintenance that may be dangerous for humans to perform. For example, climbing to the top of tall radio antennas or wind turbines presents a risk to workers, but those risks can be mitigated if the workers instead control drones or send automated robots to do the job. These maintenance robots can also be put to use in small areas people can’t easily fit into or in areas that present a hazard to humans. For example, when a nuclear power plant melted down in Japan in 2011, robots were sent in to assess the area and perform repairs.
Aerial drones are now employed in surveying areas for construction and for map-making. These drones are capable of performing exact measurements and of getting an aerial perspective without the need for people to use aircraft. This is much more affordable since drones require much less maintenance and fuel than a plane or helicopter requires. Another perk is that one person can operate the drone or oversee a programmed automated drone instead of the crew of two or three that aircraft requires.