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Robots displace millions of Manufacturing Workers in US: Automation getting Cheaper and more Common

While some politicians blame trade for the job losses, most economists say automation is mainly to blame as robots do routine factory tasks previously done by humans

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US, April 15, 2017: The impact of automation on U.S. jobs is open to debate. Robots have displaced millions of manufacturing workers, and automation is getting cheaper and more common, raising concerns it will eventually supplant far more workers in the services sector of the economy, which includes everything from truck driving to banking.

University of Virginia Darden School of Business Professor Ed Hess says we are just starting to see automation’s impact. “It is going to be broad and it is going to be deep,” he said, adding that “tens of millions” of jobs could be at risk.

Data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics show 5 million U.S. manufacturing jobs have disappeared already.

While some politicians blame trade for the job losses, most economists say automation is mainly to blame as robots do routine factory tasks previously done by humans.

Hess calls self-driving cars and trucks a threat to millions of human jobs, and says fast-food workers are also vulnerable, as companies install electronic kiosks to take restaurant orders. McDonalds says displaced workers will be reassigned to other tasks.

The professor says research shows nearly half of U.S. jobs could be automated, including retail store clerks, doctors who scan X-rays for disease, administrative workers, legal staffers, and middle managers.

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Future of jobs

Starting more than a century ago, advancing technology changed the United States from an agrarian to a manufacturing economy. Displaced farm hands eventually found factory work, but the transition took years. This new transition may also take a time because, Hess says, “We’re not going to anywhere produce the number of jobs that we automate.”

But 50 years of experience in banking shows that while automation may change the industry, it does not necessarily end jobs for humans.

The first Automatic Teller Machines, or ATMs, were installed 50 years ago, and there are now 420,000 in the United States. International Monetary Fund analysis shows the number of human tellers did not drop, but rose slightly.

“Humans were doing mostly service and routine types of tasks that could be converted into more automated tasks,” Tremont Capital Group’s Sam Ditzion said. But “the humans then became far more valuable in customer service and in sales in these branches.”

In a Skype interview, Ditzion said that while automation can be “scary,” the oversight of ATMs created new kinds of work for “tens of thousands of people.”

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Automation grows

A report by Redwood Software and the Center for Economics and Business Research (CEBR) says surging investment and falling prices will help robotics grow.

Redwood’s software handles business processes that are repetitive, rule-bound and tedious.

CEBR Economist David Whitaker says as growing fleets of robots take over mundane tasks, higher productivity could bring higher wages for some human workers. He says people who want to stay employed must hone skills that robots can’t handle, such as unpredictable work or the need for an emotional human connection.

One example, according to Alex Bentley of Blue Prism software, is a program that helps law firms examine visa applications. The robot enters data but gets help from a human partner with problems such as missing information. Bentley says some human jobs have been lost, but in other cases displaced workers move within the firm to new work, particularly jobs that are “customer-centric.”

U.S. Senator Chris Coons says Germany and other nations use training programs to help their citizens get and keep jobs in a changing economy. The Democrat says America’s competitors invest six times what the U.S. does in skills development and workforce training, while Washington has slashed funding for such programs. Coons and a Republican colleague, Senator Thom Tillis, are seeking more help for schools, companies, workers and government agencies operating programs to upgrade the workforce.

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New opportunities

While workers need to make some changes, philosopher and professor Ed Freeman of UVA’s Darden School of Business says companies also need to rethink their basic purpose. He says businesses must do more than just maximize value for shareholders.

“I need red blood cells to live,” he said. “It doesn’t follow that the purpose of my life is to make red blood cells. Companies need profits to live, it doesn’t follow that the purpose of a company is to make profits. We have to think through this idea about what purpose is in business.”

Freeman says he is “optimistic” because many jobs, such as creating applications for smartphones that would have been unimaginable a few years ago, are creating thousands of opportunities. He is also encouraged by his many students who, he says, bring new ideas, passion and energy to the task of starting businesses that will create new kinds of jobs.

Freeman is convinced that the problem isn’t the tsunami of lost jobs, it is the lack of “really good ideas” for creating a safety net for people who will lose jobs to automation.

Many experts worry about growing levels of automation — particularly advanced forms known as artificial intelligence — hurting employment for U.S. workers.

But U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin says it will be “50 or 100 years” before artificial intelligence takes American jobs. In an interview with Mike Allen of AXIOS, Mnuchin said, “I think we are so far away from that, [it is] not even on my radar screen.”
-VOA

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Delhi Government Working Towards Robotic Solutions For Cleaning Sewers, Septic Tanks

Robots to clean sewers, septic tanks in Delhi? Find it out here

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Robot, Reading Companion
FILE - A visitor shakes hands with a humanoid robot at 2018 China International Robot Show in Shanghai (VOA)

In an attempt to fully eradicate manual scavenging from the Indian capital, the Delhi government is working towards robotic solutions for cleaning sewers and septic tanks.

To achieve this goal, Delhi Cabinet Minister Rajendra Pal Gautam convened a meeting with experts from IIT, Delhi Technological University (DTU), New Delhi Municipal Council (NDMC), Delhi Jal Board (DJB) and Delhi Cantonment Board among others to discuss the possibilities and the need of robotic solution to sewer cleaning task, the government said on Thursday.

The idea was inspired from a Robot named Bandicoot, developed by Kerala-based start-up Genrobotics, that has been commissioned by municipal bodies in Kerala, Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh.

About 80 manual scavengers have been trained in these states to operate the robots in a bid to offset the loss of livelihood.

Bandicoot, a semi-automatic robot, only requires a human operator to stand on the street near the manhole.

technology addiction
It is a natural thing for man to become dependent on technology, and also addicted to it. Pixabay

“The machine with its many cameras, a robotic arm with 360 degree mobility, and a handy bucket to collect the waste does the work. The operator is only needed for navigation when the manhole is of non-standard size or there are multiple sewer lines below,” a statement said.

“The Delhi government has already taken up various efforts to stop the inhuman practice of manual scavenging and would soon introduce fully mechanised system to clean the sewage system and septic tanks. Still there is a need for robotic solutions for smaller lanes and by lanes where machines cannot go,” the Minister said.

During the meeting, experts from Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) said the robot is not constructed for the condition of Delhi. So they suggested that the DJB approach the company for demonstration and feasibility to use such machine in Delhi.

Also Read- Tech Giant Google Ends Forced Arbitration For Employees Globally

While some experts suggested usage of censors in the manhole to check the status of toxic gases, some others suggested a database control room for various sewer line related data and a Helpline number for the same.

“The DJB has been asked to constitute a committee for implementation of various methods to use robot and other type of technology. The government will ensure funds to DJB for this purpose,” the Minister added. (IANS)