Replacing Employees with Robots: Is It a Feasible Move During the Pandemic?


Before artificial intelligence (AI) became mainstream, many feared the idea of robots replacing humans in the workplace. Some even saw it as apocalyptic, with robots commanding the human race instead of the other way around. But now that almost all industries use AI, robots in the workplace have become common. Especially in manufacturing. You’d be the outdated one if you still don’t use robots.

However, many industry leaders all know the cost of using robots: humans losing their jobs. Boston Consulting Group (BGC) estimates that by 2025, advanced robots will boost productivity by 30 percent and reduce labor costs by 18 percent. Hence, this only urges manufacturing and other industries to continue laying off human workers for robots.

The Value of Human Manpower

What happens to the value of human workers then? Experts assert that AI opened up many new job opportunities, particularly in information technology. This widens the options of job candidates as a result. But when talking about laborers or factory workers who only depend on their jobs for a living, what other choices do they have?

Considering the effect of the COVID-19 pandemic on the world today, using robots instead of humans can feel apathetic and insensitive. So where should your business stand?

Robots Allow You to Stay Competitive

Traditionally, companies outsource production workers from countries with low labor costs, such as China. But over the years, labor costs around the world have risen, including China’s. Hence, instead of continuing to outsource workers, companies shifted to automation. This allowed them to stay competitive amid the rising costs of labor. In turn, companies were able to keep offering high-quality products at affordable prices.

As for the people whose jobs that robots took, not all hope is lost. In fact, robots perform repetitive tasks, allowing human workers to take on more creative roles. They can be tasked to improve the manufacturing methods, for instance.

In addition, the United Nations agrees that while technological innovations have destroyed jobs, they also created new ones. Throughout history, advances in technology have helped boost workers’ productivity and created new products and markets. As a result, new jobs were generated, which is also the case in developing AI and robotics.

Besides, various economic, legal, regulatory, and sociopolitical make it impossible for many occupations to disappear. Hence, though the threats of job loss are undeniably there because of robots, we will never run out of job opportunities.

AI Can Help in the Hiring Process

Human resources have also benefited from AI. AI tools can aid in the hiring process, helping HR train your employees screen candidates faster. They can even help during the interview process. Instead of face-to-face interviews, which is discouraged today because of the pandemic, companies can use tools to screen candidates.

However, AI might have limitations when it comes to analyzing data. For example, if specific populations or credentials are underrepresented in your company, your AI tool might not learn the best connections between candidates and your company’s goals. This can cause you to miss out on the best talents in the job market. So human workers still need to intervene, even if AI can take up most of the load.

AI Might Have Sensitive Upkeep Requirements

As of 2020, only about 9% of manufacturing organizations have used AI. There are two possible reasons for this: limited readiness to design and implement in-house AI solutions and limited ability to adopt AI in commercial applications.

It turns out that most manufacturers lack the skills, specialists, data, and infrastructure to support AI tools. They only have disconnected machines, staff, and processes, which aren’t ready for AI or machine learning. AI tools, especially robots, might have sensitive upkeep requirements, so unless you prepare for these predicaments, then using robotics might not be for your business yet.

Your best option, for now, is to continue optimizing your existing machinery and equipment. Regularly working with experienced industrial electrical contractors can help you with preventive maintenance. As a result, you can maintain high productivity levels even without robots because you’ve minimized downtimes.

Relying on Human Workers Isn’t Completely Outdated Yet

If buying robots isn’t on your agenda yet, don’t feel pressured. It will be a while before robots replace up to 20 million factory jobs. Nine more years, to be exact. Sure, that’s not a lot of time, but it shows that human factory workers aren’t about to lose their relevance any time soon. Industries still have time to prepare them for more complex roles. Furthermore, the pandemic has also created new job opportunities, like online-based occupations. People who lost their jobs can take advantage of these opportunities, learn new skills, and prepare themselves for when robots take over what used to be their workplaces.

Industry experts tout AI and robotics will replace all human work shortly. However, humans still haven’t lost their value in their workplace, with new jobs and careers borne online as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. As humans focus on more creative pursuits that need human intuition, companies utilize robotics for more menial tasks—for now.

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