08 Sep Threat, Invasion, Ousting, Takeover Cry The Media
Threat, Invasion, Ousting, Takeover.
All these words are being used in media articles screaming their alarm at the “Robotics Revolution”. Robots have been infiltrating into factory production systems, labs, logistics and retail for years and all these industries still employ human beings while at the same time the quality of their output has increased. When I had my first car it was largely hand-built and each week parts fell off or shook loose. Today my car is almost entirely robot built and it has been perfect from day 1 to day 1344 ! Yet the coverage of the robotics that build this perfection has been almost relentlessly negative, focusing on the threat to jobs, squeezing out the human component and pushing them to the scrap heap.
I will not deny the potential is there, especially if short term greed overcomes common sense. We must all be aware that it is NOT the robots and AI that is the threat, it is the short term thinkers in business who are the problem. If robotics and AI do become a threat, then this would be a threat of (business) society’s own choosing.
The market impact of and for robotics as well as autonomous systems is estimated to be US$10 to US$20 trillion a year by 2025, but to support that spend vendors must have citizens with money to buy the goods that the robots make. Who will have this money if so many jobs are lost?
A recent report from the Sutton Trust speculated that just discarding workers as robots and AI are introduced could lead to a two-tier society with:
“An elite high-skilled group dominating the higher echelon of society and a lower-skilled, low-income group with limited prospects of up-skilling and hence upward mobility, resulting in a broken social ladder.” This would be highly corrosive to society which is already being polarised along wealth lines.
AI & Robotics: Time to Democratise Industry?
The revolution in robotics and autonomous systems started 30 years ago and is now gathering pace. If we do not want to end up with the situation given in the Sutton Report then the source of knowledge, means and production have to democratised, and this is most definitely possible.
AI has the ability to bring expert knowledge to the lay person anywhere in the world, and support them in their endeavours. This virtual AI mentor, backed by Big-Data and Machine-Learning could customise information into a format that their audience, no matter what their current skill level, can engage with. Imagine AI and robot factories, basically ‘unbranded” and providing factory production for hire by time-&-material (not unlike NJMC’s PMO as a Service offerings). The factory AI could reconfigure the plant to meet the changing production demands without human intervention. A bright young thing from University Of Leiden could produce a new medical device in the factory, while in the next lane a farmer from Tibet who has never left his home town is having a new farming tool made to his own design. Robots pack the finished goods. Sales channels like Alibaba or Amazon could handle advertising and sales.
All of this offers unprecedented opportunities by giving access to manufacturing processes which would previously been beyond reach. Most of all it has the potential for wealth creation in countries that are most in need of it.
Thinking Beyond the Next Quarter’s Results
In order to achieve these benefits society has to grasp them. Governments need to brace for the change by pouring creative thought and money into new, fair ways to tax. Business would need to rid themselves of the near sociopathic mind set that sits behind the single minded improvement of “quarterly results” and nurture a new generation of longer term thinkers and planners. Academia have a responsibility to prepare the current and future workforce for the imminent and dramatic changes to come, in short education needs to become leaner and more agile.
NJMC has a view that is contrary to the perceived apocalyptic scenario spouted in the UK’s Daily mail or Guardian news media. We think that the future is all about people and planet. Many will have by then contributed to the knowledge we humans embed within the AI systems and how we interact with them and so we all own it. For that human-based scenario to work we need a lean and agile, future-ready workforce, to embrace a data-driven world in partnership with robotics and autonomous systems which complimenting human skills and vice versa.
The Companies Driving Change
Companies like Actemium in the Netherlands are taking incremental steps towards the lights-out factory by applying various parts of solutions to existing companies and they are not alone. Mobile Industrial Robots, a Danish company that entered the U.S. market early in 2016 provides in factory mobile movement solutions. Universal Robots supplied Whippany Actuation Systems, a maker of specialized electromechanical actuation systems for the aerospace and defence industries, a robotic arm when it needed to increase production quickly. Looking for an alternative to sinking a large expenditure into a new CNC machines Universal used their robotic arm to operate the existing CNC machine! All of these are step changes in the direction of evolution but in Germany it has moved on further.
In Amberg, Germany, there is a factory which is automated to the point where some lines can run unsupervised for several weeks. It is the first step towards a fully self-organising factory that would allow the manufacture of almost infinitely customisable products manufactured in parallel in ways with the least environment impact. Despite the vast amount of automation, AI and robotics the factory has 1,155 employees supporting it. The roles in it have changed but a properly educated workforce, brought along inclusively in a transformation programme can change to meet roles focused on programming, monitoring and plant maintenance.
The 4th Industrial Revolution: Benefits for All
Robotics, AI, and ML do not have to mean threat, invasion, ousting and takeover. They can just as equally mean evolution, not revolution. They can mean complimenting each other to extract the best of both.
NJMC want to help you to manage transformation programmes that enhance both your business, your workforce and society as a whole. Ultimately the value of your company will reside not in the robotics hardware, it will be in the human workforce driving them forward
- Sutton Trust – https://www.suttontrust.com/
- Actemium Manufacturing – fabrieksautomatisering voor discrete productie – https://manufacturing.actemium.nl/
- Mobile Industrial Robots ApS – Emil Neckelmanns Vej 15F, 5220 Odense SØ, Denmark – http://www.mobile-industrial-robots.com/
- Universal Robots – Automate Virtually Anything – http://www.universal-robots.com
- Whippany Actuation Systems designs, manufactures & supports engineered electromechanical actuation systems – https://www.whipactsys.com/
- Siemens Electronics in Amberg, Germany – https://www.siemens.com/press/en/presspicture/?press=/en/presspicture/2016/digitalfactory/2016-11-ewa/im2016110167dfen.htm