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“Man vs. Machine?” – A plea for rethinking their collaboration

01 April 2016

On the way to Industry 4.0 many people wonder: “Will machines substitute human workers?” Since its beginning, the fourth industrial revolution has been discussed alongside with this question. It is as old as automation itself; however, it looks at the winds of our times from the wrong perspective. It is not about “man VS machine”, but “man WITH machine”.

According to a study carried out by the International Federation of Robotics (IFR), the number of robots sold globally will have doubled to about 400,000 units by 2018. 70 per cent of total turnover is generated in China, Japan, USA, South Korea and Germany. Here are some figures to compare: South Korea employs 478 industrial robots per 10,000 employees, in Germany, this figure currently stands at 292 units. Of course, this number will not stay at 2.9 per cent robots among 10,000 employees, but even with this number going up, the density of robots dampens the widespread fear of losing one’s job.

Often, the fact that one industrial robot is not the same as another is being overlooked. One driving force behind growing sales on the automation market are collaborative robots in particular, so-called cobots. These lightweight robots were developed in order to combine the skills of man and machine perfectly. They are light-weight and can be deployed in multiple ways. Due to these robots being easily operated, they do not need to be programmed by expert programmers. This saves costs and thus makes the robots an easy tool for everybody.

The result of this rung-in change is intended to be that man and machine respectively do what they can do best. The weaknesses of one are compensated for by the strengths of the other. When lightweight robots assume repetitive or ergonomically unfavorable tasks, illnesses linked to the job decrease and the workplace becomes safer

 
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