Responding to 5 Myths of Industrial Automation
Published on : Friday 04-06-2021
Consistently dispelling myths is an excellent way to ensure concerned parties have the most correct, realistic information about automation, says Devin Partida.
Industrial automation is gaining ground in factories around the world. However, some decision-makers and employees still have hesitations about the progression of automated machines to increase productivity. Here are some effective ways to answer five pervasive industrial automation myths.
Myth #1 – Automation will take everyone’s jobs
One of the biggest concerns about automation is that it will replace human jobs. Analysts have made that prediction for years. However, their predictions often turn out overblown once1 the actual situation becomes clearer.
For example, some people will have their jobs replaced, but many in that group will receive reskilling training so they remain relevant parts of a company’s workforce. The new education typically makes them better prepared for the future.
This reskilling trend means automation will create more jobs than it takes. One study found that the Fourth Industrial Revolution will create 133 million new jobs2 by 2022 versus replacing 75 million positions.
Myth #2 – Automated machines are well-suited to any task
Another myth is that automated machines can do every task chosen for them. However, the best outcomes often occur when humans3 and automated equipment work together. At the same time, there are certain jobs that such equipment can handle exceptionally well. They include repetitive work, tasks requiring high precision, and jobs that pose a high danger to people.
Conversely, humans excel with work requiring creativity, critical thinking, and spontaneity. Robots are not as useful in environments characterised by frequent changes, but they’re ideal in consistent settings.
Plus, automated machines lack the intelligent thought capabilities that humans have. These variations emphasise that automation is a smart choice for many — but not all — tasks.
Myth #3 – Power outages will cause automation productivity losses
Decision-makers in areas of the world that experience frequent power outages may quickly assume automation is not the best solution for them to pursue. However, any successful automation strategy requires assessing the possible challenges and mitigating them.
In the case of power outage concerns, that may mean researching backup power options before finalising an automation investment. For example, propane is ideal4 during power outages because it does not require electricity to obtain. Also, a standby generator is a good choice for powering an entire building or large piece of equipment during an outage.
Myth #4 – Updating existing hardware for industrial automation is too expensive
The perceived cost is another thing that can make industrial automation unattractive to some people. For example, a company leader may believe it’s too costly to replace all of a company’s hardware to make it compatible with automation.
It’s true that hardware assessments should occur5 before any automation purchases. However, a company does not necessarily need the latest hardware — or a specific type — to make automation pay off.
Some companies offer robotics-as-a-service (RaaS) programs where customers get easy-to-deploy robots delivered to factories. Those typically don’t require any upgrades. Plus, some automation software works with various hardware types.
Myth #5 – Only large companies can benefit from industrial automation
People running small and medium-sized businesses may assume industrial automation is out of reach for them, and their organisations would not get meaningful benefits from the machines anyway. However, many such companies do see extensive advantages after implementing automation.
That’s largely due to how the machines can increase output as a company maintains the same sized workforce. Such perks come in especially handy during seasonal surges in business.
A San Francisco-based startup called Rapid Robotics even specifically targets smaller enterprises with its technology. The company operates with a subscription model. It costs $3,750 per month per robot for the first year6, then $2,100 monthly after that. That approach makes it easier for smaller companies to get set up and start reaping the benefits faster than people at those organisations may initially expect.
Accurate industrial automation information can raise adoption rates
Many people naturally feel hesitant about the unknown. If individuals don’t know industrial automation realities like those listed here, they may resist opportunities to use and embrace automation while working or upgrading a factory.
However, consistently dispelling myths is an excellent way to ensure concerned parties have the most correct, realistic information about what automation will and won’t do. The clarity provided here and in similar coverage elsewhere could be instrumental in convincing people to welcome industrial automation rather than fearing or disregarding it.
Devin Partida is a technology writer interested in manufacturing and Industry 4.0. She is also the Editor-in-Chief of the growing tech publication, ReHack.com.