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WILL A ROBOT TAKE YOUR PLACE?

Monday, 18 January 2016 | By Gerry Mulvaney

 

By Gerry Mulvaney, European Sales Manager, Landa Digital Printing

I was rather shocked when I saw my first industrial robot. The year was about 1989 and I was in the factory of Mitsubishi Paper Mills in Kyoto, Japan. At the end of the production line for SilverMaster® paper-base plates, rolls of plate material were being picked up by a large robotic arm and placed carefully into a cardboard carton.

My hosts were very excited to show me their latest development in productivity, even if the effect was spoiled a couple of minutes later when to my amusement I moved into the next room and found an army of women at the final stage of the production line, sealing each box with tape and putting it into an outer container.

I was reminded of my Japanese experience recently when a report from the Chief Economist at the Bank of England, Andy Haldane warned that up to 15 million UK jobs could be put at risk in the next twenty years as a result of increasing use of robots. This time however they will not just be jobs sealing boxes. Computers are capable of very complex tasks and many of the repetitive roles in manufacturing industry could be taken over in the robotic revolution according to Haldane.

Production line run by robots

Robots populate a “humanless” production line

He wasn’t just referring to robots on the factory floor; it seems that jobs in design, accounting and heaven forbid even sales could be the domain of robots in 2035. The Bank of England were looking at the fiscal implications for the British economy in such a change – higher unemployment, lower tax revenues and more benefits needed for those put out of work, but there are much wider implications for individuals who will need to retrain perhaps several times in their future careers in order to stay ahead of the robots.

We don’t plan for our Landa S10 Nanographic Printing® Press to be operated by robots, but the design and manufacturing involves advanced computerised systems, with service and support utilising cutting edge technology.

Robots or Not, Human Values Should Not Be Lost

There is a lot of work still to be done before printing becomes a “lights out” manufacturing process. I was heartened by a statement by Stuart Russell, professor of computer science at UCL in Berkeley, who said it was vital that robots are programmed to understand the full spectrum of human values. He gave the example of “buying a robot to look after your kids at home while you were at work and because there was no food in the fridge, the robot could decide that the cat would be a good source of protein and puts it in the oven for dinner.”

Robot playing basketball with kids

Robot looking after your kids while you are at work?

Human values are not something we want to lose along with the jobs that robots take – something Mitsubishi Paper Mills recognised by employing their women in another role when the robots arrived and providing employment, friendship and camaraderie in their workplace.

Landa workers

Landa workplace camaraderie


Sources
Lobby page image: http://mitsubishirobotics.com/challenges
Main page images:
- http://www.dunbarsystems.com/Images/enlarge/benda%20robot%20benda%20copy(7o8ml3).jpg
- BIG DATA, IoT, AI, AND ALL THAT JAZZ: LEADING in THE AGE of CRAZY CHANGE, Anat Lechner, PhD, Professor of Business Management, Stern School of Business, NYU, DECEMBER 28, 2015

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