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Boosting the Economy Using Automation

Using robotic arms during assembly and machine vision to inspect thousands of parts per minute are among the ways U.S. companies use automation to grow. A downloadable white paper from the Association for Advancing Automation (A3), Robots Fuel the Next Wave of Productivity and Job Growth, highlights how small-to-medium sized businesses in the U.S. can leverage technology to compete globally.

A Picture of Profitability

Automated processes allow companies to make better and higher quality products with less waste and liability than manufacturing methods that relied heavily on manual labor.

The bottom line component is clear. A machine vision integrator, Integro Technologies, is an AIA Certified Integrator that helps installs imaging work cells to inspect parts. The company had a client that was producing 1.1 million parts per year and after automating inspection, the throughput increased to six million parts per year.

Profitability benefits all workers. Small-to-medium sized businesses have seen customer demand increase and have needed to hire workers in other areas like logistics and sales support.

Working Well with Others

Automation complements the skills of highly trained professionals. A 2016 report released by the White House Artificial Intelligence, Automation, and the Economy, states that “demand for labor will likely increase the most in the areas where humans complement AI-automation technologies” (p18).

An example given in the report is that a tool like IBM’s Watson may help with early detection of cancer, but it will take a human healthcare professional to guide a patient through treatment and recovery.

Industrial automation also heightens the job satisfaction of workers who have been trained to supervise robots and while reducing on-the-job injuries.

There are concerns that today’s automation will lead to permanent job loss, but history has shown how unforeseen occupations have emerged as technology changed. Blacksmiths who worked on horse and buggies evolved into mechanics who now maintain cars and may specialize in specific models.

In the article Rise of the Robotic Workforce, published in Harvard Political Review, the impact of automation on the near-future economy is covered at length. A contemporary look at technology’s cause and effect in the write-up includes how the widespread use of personal computers led to the development of the app industry.

That’s a subtle example, but robots will need people to maintain them. U.S. companies can now automate and hire locally instead of moving outside the country to find low-cost labor. This was noted in an article on A3 from September 2015 Made in the USA: Robotics Lead Reshoring Efforts.

Making the Grade

The cost and time needed to train staff in robotics, machine vision, or other form of automation may seem daunting, but A3 and its member organizations provide convenient webinars and in-person trainings. These are linked through A3’s Resources web page.

As automation boosts various sectors of the economy, there will be a need for those who can integrate robotics solutions for companies, troubleshoot and maintain robots, supervise their operation, and collect information in data-driven plants.

Prepare for the future with resources available through A3automate.org.