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Meet your future robot coworker

Robots are going to steal your job – that’s one myth Sami Atiya would like to debunk. “If you look at the most heavily automated countries in the world – South Korea, Japan, Germany – they have some of the lowest unemployment rates,” says the president of robotics and discrete automation at ABB. "So robots create jobs rather than taking them." Indeed, while the World Economic Forum predicts the robot revolution will displace 85 million jobs – but will create 97 million new roles.

As an example, Atiya points to one ABB customer in the UK. “The growth potential of one of our customers – a welding firm – was being limited until they automated low-level tasks,” he says. “Not only was it able to expand its business, but the highly skilled welders were able to focus on more interesting projects, as the robots took care of the more mundane welding jobs.”

That’s why, at the end of 2019, there was already 2.7 million industrial robots at work in factories globally – up by 12 per cent on 2018, according to IFR. But other sectors are also turning to automation, such as healthcare, logistics and even food production, with ABB robots flipping pancakes for Honeytop Specialty Foods.

More are set to automate thanks to the rise of cobots, or collaborative robots that that work safely alongside people, which have doubled their share of the market since 2017.

“We launched the world’s first truly collaborative robot – YuMi – in 2015," Atiya says. "Today, it is working alongside people in factories, workshops and laboratories all over the world, performing precise and repetitive tasks, from assembling electronics and electrical components to testing ATM machines – which leaves workers free to do more value-add activities."

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