In the near future, you might be sharing office space with a robot. Can you imagine such a scenario? It looks more like something taken out from a sci-fi movie, right? Usually, people imagine shiny metallic humanoids trying to slave humans in a distant future when they hear the word ‘robot.’ Reality is a bit different.
The workspace of the future will rely on robots specifically designed to interact with their human colleagues. And it might happen sooner than you think. In fact, there is already a word to designate robots designed to interact with people, ‘cobots’ (a portmanteau of collaborative robots).
Manufacturing industries, particularly automobile production lines, have been using robots for decades. They usually perform repetitive, difficult, and dangerous tasks such as welding, handling hazardous materials, etc. Hence, for safety reasons, these robots are placed in separate locations, isolated from the human staff.
In contrast, cobots will operate in our living spaces. Besides our offices and factories, they might help with different tasks at home. They will be perfectly adapted to navigate safely around us. Does it sound too futuristic? Maybe. But automation technology has made initial incursions toward the robotization of the workspace.
Let us look at a simple example. In any modern office, it is more common to see an electric standing desk. This piece of furniture is equipped with devices known as linear actuators, which move the desk’s tabletop up and down as needed. This way, an office worker can adjust the tabletop height to work while standing or sitting, as they deem convenient.
Linear actuators are electromechanical devices that were initially created to automate robots. As you see, robotization is getting closer to our living spaces, even without your noticing. It is already happening in 2022. So, what can we expect for the coming years? Let us briefly discuss it.
Cobots Will Revolutionize the Workspace
The main tasks of cobots in the workspace will not differ much from the tasks of industrial robots. They will perform tasks that their human colleagues do not want to do. Usually, employees often get bored or discouraged if they have to do repetitive, tedious, and/or dirty activities at work.
Hence, cobots will contribute to job satisfaction by relieving employees from tedious tasks. This way, workers will be able to concentrate in creative and mentally-demanding tasks, which keep their work interesting and engaging. As a result, employees will be much more productive, fostering their company’s revenue.
Cobots will also contribute to improving the health and safety of employees at the workspace. Since these machines will perform repetitive and strenuous tasks, the risk of injury will drastically reduce. Likewise, cobots will prevent workers from getting in contact with hazardous materials or dangerous objects. Indirectly, these actions will also have a positive impact on productivity since sick leaves will decrease.
Cobots will excel in jobs where higher levels of consistency are required. For example, high precision tasks can be performed by these robots with minimal risk of error. As a result, production costs will be reduced since there will be less waste of materials. Moreover, because of higher quality, the products produced by cobots will command higher prices in the market.
So, in the coming years, robotization will deliver these benefits to the companies that adopt this technology:
• More productivity for companies.
• Better health and safety for employees.
• Higher work consistency.
Over the years, cobots will become lighter and more compact, allowing for their integration to all types of workspaces. We can foresee cobots walking around with an engineer to assist in maintenance or preventive tasks in industrial premises. Cobots will also be around in offices carrying things around and automatically delivering them to their destination.
Will Robotization of the Workspace Put Jobs at Risk?
Since the introduction of robots in production lines, workers have feared mass job losses because of this technology. But in most cases, robots are used to assist humans with their tasks, not to replace them. Robots can perform specific tasks, but the creativity of human workers will always be needed for the completion of complicated workflows.
Cobots will be user-friendly. Hence, workers will be able to program them to help with their daily activities. Both humans and cobots will create a synergy not seen before, in which both parties will complement each other. So, cobots will need their human ‘colleagues’ for their operation. They will not take jobs away from people, quite the contrary.
As robotization of the workplace becomes mainstream, there will be more job opportunities for automation engineers. These specialists will be in charge of designing newer generations of robots and cobots. Likewise, more technicians will participate in the manufacturing of these machines.
The proliferation of cobots will also lead to the establishment of cobot safety risk assessment companies. They will assess potential dangers of this technology, and propose solutions to alleviate them. In general, robotization of workspace will create more jobs than it might take away.