Robot Competitors: It’s about Capital, Not Labor

Automation is a good thing. It’s green, reducing waste and increasing efficiency in production. It keeps people safe, taking on the jobs that must be done in dangerous environments. It frees human beings for more creative work.

And it’s not going to take over all the human jobs, even if robots are expanding their reach. If fact, during the pandemic, when people might like to have robots doing a lot of jobs, they haven’t really stepped up.

But new research from Boston University suggests that robots are increasing the divide between the haves and the have-nots. Here’s how it works.

First, the effect is greater in some places than in others, but one robot can displace more than six workers, on average. That’s up to six human beings losing good manufacturing jobs.

But which six workers? It’s not a random group of workers chosen evenly across the industry. The people who are replaced by robots have fewer choices of other jobs, and the new jobs they end up in typically don’t have the same pay scales and benefits. So even when they get new jobs, the people replaced by automation are worse off.

New jobs created by increasing automation are more likely to go to highly skilled workers. That will tend to put them in more urban and affluent areas. Rural areas often don’t have the kind of workforce needed for the new jobs. That means that rural areas will be more likely to lose jobs rather than to gain jobs. The effect on these communities will be negative.

The factories with more automation will increase productivity, so the owners of the robots — that is, the owners of the factories –will benefit financially. They might pass some of this benefit along to consumers, in the form of lower prices.

That looks like a good thing. The former machine operator now working as a barista will be able to afford the goods he used to make.  But this will also affect the factory’s competitors, possibly allowing  the large, automated company to thrive while the smaller, less automated company goes under. That competitor’s workers could also be out of work in this scenario. Once again, people who had manufacturing jobs would find themselves in less stable and lucrative jobs.

In other words, workers who have only the value of their labor to sell may not be sitting pretty as automation increasers. The owners of the capital will be in a better position. It’s not the robots who are the overlords in this scenario.

So consider your robots and the machinery that keeps them running correctly. If they rely on Rexroth electric industrial motion control, make sure they stay in good condition with factory repair and reman. Call us right away.

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