Robots: Blessing or curse for jobs?

Are robots a blessing or a curse for the job market? This is the question which the DRF Deutschland Fernsehen (German Television) discussed using the example of InSystem Automation GmbH’s proANT transport robots. In this discussion, both managing director of InSystems Henry Stubert and researcher of the Technische Universität Berlin (TU, University of Technology Berlin) share their perspectives on the automation trend. What becomes apparent is that it seems that researchers’ and entrepreneurs’ opinions don’t seem to be much different.

The job market is currently changing greatly due to the rising use of robots. These intelligent machines appear in more and more parts of our lives, assist us and take over tasks that we find troublesome and arduous. The DRF Deutschland Fernsehen has decided to take on the robotics-phenomenon in one of their broadcasts at the beginning of the year and visited InSystems Automation, a manufacturer of transport robots for the international market since 2012.

Blessing or curse – Do robots make work easier or harder?

Henry Stubert, managing director of the organization, explains: “Generally, we build transport robots for all applications in the production process. What’s innovative about these vehicles is their autonomous navigation. Thanks to that, there is no need for much preparation of refits within a production site.” The robots learn about their new environment and create a navigation map, in which their orientate themselves using laser scanners. Stubert adds: “The robots take care of tasks that don’t add value to the product. Managers have taken notice of this and try to reduce costs for such tasks.” Stubert also replies to the concern that, as soon as robots are brought into a system, workers might automatically lose their jobs. In many cases, employees are integrated in other departments and receive qualifications for new tasks.

Researcher Remmers takes a differentiated view on robotics development

Peter Remmers of the Technische Universität (University of Technology) sees the development of robotics in a larger context. Remmers: “One the one hand, robots are a great advantage for organizations. They create value and can add to the efficiency and quality of working processes and products. On the other hand, robots already compete with workers, especially those with lower skill levels, whose work they may take over.” Scientifically speaking, what can be seen here is “upskill”. The trend is to automate simple, repetitive tasks that do not require much intellectual effort.

Nevertheless it is not correct to assume that robots just remove jobs across the board. The researcher notes: “So far, every new technology has always created new jobs.” When, for example, the computer was introduced in the 1980s, this brought with it the creation of many new working fields that no one knew would ever exist. Remmers connects this past experience to robots in the present: “Of course, people with technological skills for the maintenance and care for these machines will be needed. I see a large market that could emerge here.”

Science and industry have similar prognoses for the future of robotics

In conclusion, Remmers and Stubert, Science and industry, are not that different when it comes to their prognoses for the development of the robotics market: They both believe there will be many new jobs and chances. What will, however, be needed is a moderator and coordinator between the world of technology and general society. Both call this a job for politics.

Links for further information: 

Video of the DRF 1 

News about the digitalization of work

News about the future of work