Brand Update

Don’t blame automation for cutting manufacturing jobs


An in-depth report on how automation will impact the manufacturing jobs in India.

Today, we are seeing an increased rise in the awareness and requirement of technology by the Indian industry. They are eyeing for best-in-class performance at optimum costs. Manufacturing not only looks at productivity in terms of quantity and quality but also in terms of overall equipment efficiency, energy monitoring, condition monitoring and machine and plant availability. Technology transition times from developed economies have shortened. Aspirational India no longer wishes to project itself as low cost hub, rather wants to be best-in-class and a preferred manufacturing destination. Here we present an analysis on how automation will impact the manufacturing jobs in India.

Foxconn replaces 60,000 factory workers with robots. Raymond to replace 10,000 jobs with robots in next 3 years. Bombardier Transportation cutting up to 2,200 railway jobs in Germany. Such reports from all over the world on impact of increasing automation over the manufacturing jobs are making news for quite some time.

On the contrary, Thomas Angerbauer, the Market Segment Manager for the Foundry division at KUKA Roboter GmbH said, “Our experience as well as national and international scientific studies on this topic show that if, for instance, robots are used in foundries then productivity increases. This makes production operations competitive and companies successful – as well as usually offering more possibilities for employment than before. In addition to this, robots are very safe and therefore particularly suitable for tasks in foundry environments that are too strenuous or dangerous for the human body. By using modern robot systems in various stages of the production process, foundries can prepare themselves for the future and ensure their global competitiveness.”

No longer ‘to have’, but a ‘must-have’ in Indian manufacturing
“In the context of the new industrial revolution, machine and factory builders are turning towards open source architectures and moving away from proprietary solutions to handle the rapid and asynchronous new developments in fields like processors, connectivity, mechatronics, artificial intelligence and enhanced reality. Openness also forms the core of Industry 4.0. Robotics and automation are no longer a good to have, but a ‘must-have’ in Indian manufacturing,” says Ninad Deshpande, Head – Marketing, B&R Industrial Automation Pvt Ltd.

B&R with its innovations, products and technologies is an ideal partner for achieving cost effective, high performance, modular machines and production units. “B&R has been a believer in open source architectures for over a decade. Ethernet Powerlink, the only open source real time deterministic Ethernet communication acts as a backbone for all B&R systems. B&R offers open safety, which is the only field bus independent SIL3 certified safety communication for machines, plant and factory and OPC UA for machine-to-machine and machine to ERP / MES / cloud connectivity. With skilling of work force at the right point, jobs will move up on skill and value scale, thus making our work force ‘I4.0-fit’,” claims Deshpande.

Deshpande explains, “It is not about the robots and humans working as separate entities and in separated environments. With the new industrial revolution, it is more about humans and robots collaborating and working safely together.”

Increases the level of output, reduces high cost of labor
Explaining his view on how automation will impact the manufacturing jobs in India, Mukesh Thakur, Assistant Manager– Sales & Marketing, Finder India Pvt Ltd says “As India along with the other major growing economies around the world are digitalising their workplace, offices and factories by bringing automation in order to increase the level of output, reduce the high cost of labor, and compensating for a limited supply of labor, there is serious concern being raised about the future consequence of ‘technological unemployment’ where the machine is/will replace the human work force. It has been a long debate about the pros and cons.”
Thakur feels the only difference in today’s time is that changes seem to be coming much faster than before. We live in a time of exponential growth in technology. But few can deny the benefits that these advances have brought to society since 2000. Automation allows people to complete tasks faster with fewer errors at cheaper costs. This increases productivity, which means people don’t have to spend as much time or money to accomplish tasks, which generates new wealth for society.

Thakur opines, “We should be more optimistic rather than pessimistic because of the past experiences which shows that technology has always ended up creating more jobs than it destroys. Automating a particular task, so that it can be done more quickly or cheaply, increases the demand for human workers to do the other tasks around it that have not been automated.”

He further explains, “New age technology will speed up the existing trend of computer-related automation, disrupting labour markets and requiring workers to learn new skills more quickly than in the past. Organisations that leverage automation tools will likely see morale and engagement rise among their employees, all the while boosting the accuracy and efficiency throughout various departments. Working to find the ways to create the most symbiotic possible relationship between automation tools and workforce members will likely be the best path forward.”
Will shift the focus from unskilled to skilled jobs
Sharing his opinion on how automation will impact the manufacturing jobs, Varun Arora, National Sales Manager, Exor India says, “If we don’t go into details, first impression is that automation will make lot of people jobless.”

He adds, “But, if you see the reality automation will only shift the focus from unskilled jobs to skilled jobs. And with initiative taken by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Make in India, automation will help create lot of jobs in manufacturing, as the scale of manufacturing in india is expected to grow manifold in coming decade.”

Need to establish the right chord between machines and men
According to Sameer Gandhi, MD, OMRON Automation, India, “With the expanse of automation, workers are not going to lose their creative and out-of-the-box talent but only time-consuming, repetitive or potentially unsafe jobs that are best performed by a machine or a robot. OMRON takes the view that by getting machines to do repetitive tasks, man is freed to do more fulfilling and creative work.”

Gandhi adds, “For making smooth deployment of automation without making an adverse impact on the jobs, companies need to establish the right chord between machines and men. This will give rise to need of new skill development, particularly, for the shop floor workers and would lead to their more effective utilisation.”

The ongoing industry conversation around automation in general and robots in particular has always depicted robots as the reason for job loss for the workforce. Gandhi informs, “On the contrary, robots are not living beings but are creation of man itself and they are programmed to do as how we want them to perform. In fact, robots and artificial intelligence are proof of concepts of the harmony and interface between humans and machines. Operating these robots requires a skilled work-force which means an opportunity of job creation, however with better and more advanced skill sets.”

Gandhi concludes with OMRON’s founder Kazuma Tateisi, visionary quote “To the machine, the work of the machine; to man, the thrill of further creation”- this statement, made almost five decades back (1970), make a lot of sense in today’s scenario.”

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