Robotics & Automation News

Market trends and business perspectives

Industrial workers would rather have a robot colleague, suggests new report

Industrial workers are increasingly seeing the benefits of working with robots, rather than humans, to improve productivity and relieve the pressures they are under.

This is one of the findings of the latest research from Epicor Software Corporation, a global provider of industry-specific enterprise software to promote business growth.

According to the research, which questioned around 2,500 business respondents in 14 countries, staff are aware of the many benefits of working alongside robots. 

Over half (54 percent) say robots automate repetitive or mundane work that they would otherwise have to do themselves, and 34 percent agrees that robots are more efficient than humans in the workplace.

It’s not just their efficiency that makes robots attractive co-workers; a quarter (27 percent) cited the fact that robots do not get involved in office politics as a benefit of working with machines.

To find that humans are happy to work alongside robots is good news for employers that want to use cutting-edge technology, to plug a growing skills gap on their factory floors.

The same research found that the industrial workforce is getting older, and that only a quarter (23 percent) of businesses are currently able to attract recruits with the right knowledge.

The use of robots can introduce efficiencies where human resource is low, and they can also encourage young talent into industry – with 33 percent of millennials wanting to work at the cutting edge of new developments.

Other research backs up the discovery that rather than being worried about job losses, workers are actually ready and willing to embrace robot coworkers.

For example, the OECD has found that only about one-in-ten jobs are actually at high risk from automation, and Gallup’s latest study shows that only a quarter (23 percent) of workers are worried about losing their jobs to AI.

Many employees are aware of the benefits of automation, because they already have first-hand experience of robot workmates.

Around a third (31 percent) says AI, robots, and highly automated machinery, are now a common feature of their day-to-day work, and only 32 percent says they are not part of their workforce at all.

Those that work in finance, and those that work in the Asia-Pacific region may be more up for working with robot co-workers than anyone else – 47 percent of respondents in APAC agree robots are more efficient than humans (compared to 29 percent in Europe and Middle East) and 33 percent of those who work in finance agree robots can take stressful tasks away from humans (compared to 23 percent in IT and 20 percent of CEOs).

Unleashing innovation and growth

In order to make the most of the latest innovations in workplace robotics and AI, businesses need to have the right infrastructure in place – one that fits their business and industry.

Cloud-based enterprise resource planning solutions like Epicor ERP can be crucial to co-ordinating robot workflows and sharing data between machines and humans across multiple digital platforms.

Indeed, around a fifth (19 percent) of businesses questioned in the Epicor study said they rely on a single core business system to manage everything.

Terri Hiskey, vice president, product marketing, manufacturing, Epicor Software, says: “The study shows us that the use of robots is a very real, but also very welcome way of solving an otherwise worrying industry-wide knowledge and skills gap.

“With employers struggling to find candidates with the right skills or knowledge for entry-level roles, and with employees struggling to keep up with the pressures of business growth, automating aspects of the workforce offers a new way of building efficiencies into the supply chain, and enabling digital transformation.

“However, businesses need the right infrastructure at their heart if they are to manage data flows effectively and to make the most of robotics and AI. This is where ERP and the cloud come into their own.

“Far from workers worrying about their jobs being taken by robots, our study shows that employees are actually very happy to work alongside machines. With all the advantages of robots not getting involved in office politics too, we can expect to see more of this in the future.”