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Rise of the Robot Workforce: More Robots to Arrive Beginning 2017

Dec 28, 2016 01:55 PM EST

Manufacturers have already made it clear: the future of manufacturing will have more technology, greater automation and an increased use of collaborative robots.

According to WZZM 13, the Grand Rapids Business Journal said that there are already 35,000 robots being sold annualy. And each year, these robots become cheaper and their abilities to operate more detailed tasks grows exponentially with implementations including camera systems and cloud technology.

Mark Lindquist, chairman of Rapid-Line in Wyoming, said his company has 150 employees and 13 robots, two of which are Baxter-brand collaborative robots and he expects the number to grow.

He noted that currently, their robots cost the company $4 an hour and are able to do some of the most redundant and low-level tasks with greater consistency than their more "expensive" human counterparts. He said robots using lasers are able to perform 2D and 3D inspection for parts, far exceeding what the human eye could do. 

However, according to Business Insider, people who are worried about what robots would do to human workers should be glad to know that there are still plenty of jobs available: much of those concerning high-level thinking, and therefore more education.

Lindquist added only 5 percent of manufacturing jobs can only be completely automated, leaving a need for plenty of human workers in the manufacturing sector. He added that jobs for robot techs will continue to grow, attracting those who have a knack for robotics.

Cedric Duclos, president and CEO of Hutchison North America in Grand Rapids, believes that not even the most advanced collaborative robots will lead to the extinction of the manufacturing workforce.

Instead, he said they may lead to job openings in other areas of manufacturing, like positions that don't currently exist but will be created as a result of the technology.

For instance, humans can still analyze a problem as robots can't think analytically -- yet.

According to an earlier report by Digital Trends, robots may replace some 5-million jobs by 2020 due to their addition in the automation industry.

The jobs most at risk of being replaced by machines are located on the "administrative and routine white-collar office functions," but humans still "retain relatively good potential for upskilling, redeployment and productivity enhancement through technology rather than pure substitution." 

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