The inevitable march of robotization

Raymon van Dinter

In recent years, major steps have been taken within artificial intelligence, including robotisation. But what exactly is robotization? And where is it mainly used for?

What is robotization?

A robot is often defined as a machine that can not only perform calculations, but also perceives its environment and performs physical actions. 

This is a fairly generic and controversial definition, because it also allows you to define thermostats, dishwashers and escalators as robotisation. However, it is wise to stick to this definition to avoid confusion. 

In theory, we can divide robotization and other new technologies into two categories:

  1. Reinforcing technology that complements employees and increases productivity. In BMW factories, for example, they are now running pilots with exoskeletons for employees, so that they have less burden during lifting and productivity increases.
  2. Replacement technology, which makes the deployment of employees unnecessary. An example of this is the 3D concrete printer, which can independently print prefab parts of a house.

The main reason for using robots is cost savings through higher production and fewer working hours. Robots can also be used for tasks that are labor-intensive or one-sided and consistently deliver the same quality. People sometimes deliver better quality in the short term, but if they are moderately trained, tired, or just having a bad day, that consistency is compromised.

Robotization in the largest branches of the Netherlands

A sector forecast for 2020 from RaboResearch shows that financial services, healthcare, catering and ICT will experience the greatest growth in robotization. What does that mean for these sectors?

Financial services
First of all, Robotic Process Automation (RPA), an army of software robots, will change the financial sector. An RPA system handles the processing of repetitive work and simple tasks, allowing employees to focus on the customer. Research by Accenture shows a number of advantages of RPA: costs can be reduced by 80%, the time to perform certain actions even by 90%.

ICT
The World Economic Forum's "Future of Jobs" report shows that by 2022, 58 million new jobs will be created in ICT. The fastest growing skills at stake here are machine learning, Internet of Things (IoT), humanoid robots and 3D printing. These are the skills that are essential for robotization. With IoT, for example, we turn conventional devices into data factories, with which we gain more insight and can see patterns. Machine learning can help us to process these connections and make forecasts ourselves. For example, if you can make predictions about the weather and food production, it will affect supermarket prices. 

Humanoid robots (robots with a human shape), such as those in healthcare, give us more affinity with robots. And 3D printers will make developing prototypes for new innovations easier and faster. In addition, there are 3D printers that can print concrete, to build entire houses independently. Finally, simple and repetitive jobs in IT will be automated and IT workers will increasingly collaborate with robots.

Catering industry 
On December 2, 2019, the AD headlined: “Staff shortage in the catering industry to record high”. Research by Statistics Netherlands shows that this staff shortage has risen to 35%. For various catering entrepreneurs, one of the possible solutions is automation. For example, The Wall Street Journal already posted a video about innovation at the company Creator in San Francisco last year. Their 4 meter long hamburger baker will prepare a perfect hamburger within 5 minutes. Independently.

A little closer to home we also have the young entrepreneur from Groningen who went viral in 2017 with his pizza vending machine, who independently prepares food that you can buy at a low price. He now sells his invention not only in the Netherlands, but also in South Africa.

Healthcare
Finally, we there is health care. Aging is yet to reach its peak, by 2040 to be precise. In that case, more than a quarter of the Dutch population is 65 or older, a third of which is even older than 80. At that time, the Netherlands has only two workers compared to every person over 65. A shortage of 100,000 to 125,000 staff is expected in the entire healthcare sector by 2022. The demand for efficient use of labor is therefore enormous.

As described in this article, care robots such as Paro, Nao, Pepper and Zora are already a step in the right direction to meet that demand. With their cute appearance, these care robots ensure that people with dementia or autism can visibly enjoy themselves through song, dance and physical contact; activities for which care workers often no longer have time. Robots can also ease the heavy physical tasks of healthcare workers. An example is a robot that can put clients in bed. This saving in energy and time ensures that health care workers are sick less often and have more time for contact with the client.

Another innovation that should not be missing is that of TU Delft's Project March. This project is carried out by a team of technical specialists who have been the best at developing an exoskeleton for years. An exoskeleton is a skeleton is placed on the outside of a patient and, for example, helps people with spinal cord injuries to walk again. At this point, they are already so far that the pilot of the exoskeleton can walk independently.

Robotisation cannot be avoided

In a society in which the labor market is becoming increasingly tight and the aging of the population is increasing, there is no place for stagnation. Robotisation, if properly applied, will improve our quality of life and help us to a future where everyone is valuable in our society. 

People with disabilities will be better able to participate and find their own way, employees will perform less heavy and more diverse work, our catering will focus more on the customer experience and our meals will meet consistent quality. Are you also looking forward to what the future of robotization has to offer?

Raymon van Dinter is an analyst at ftrprf and wrote this article for the theme Robotization

Sources
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