In a robotic workplace there will always be a place for humans

28th April 2017
Joe Bush

UK provider of hand pallet trucks, Midland Pallet Trucks, has moved to quash the theory that robots will eventually replace humans in the workplace, and stressed the importance of their role. A delivery warehouse in Hangzhou, Zhejiang province, on the Chinese mainland recently hit the headlines after a mesmerising video of its little orange robots sorting parcels went viral (see below).

Showcasing these cushion sized robots darting around the large warehouse at speed, it highlighted how close technology has come to performing tasks currently undertaken by human workers. Although many saw this as a sign of things to come, Phil Chesworth, Managing Director at Midland Pallet Trucks, doesn’t agree.

Speaking about the idea, he said: “While it’s true that robots can perform some tasks just as well as humans, relying on robots and technology for every aspect of a business could be detrimental. Simple, repetitive processes will usually provide a place for robots to shine, but when processes get more complex, this is where robots fall flat.”

The robots in the Chinese warehouse are currently only used after 6.00pm. Self-charging and accurate, they have caused quite the stir amongst the western world. Causing some to question their work and their position, the robots have been seen as both a threat and a blessing in equal measure. However, the fact they are only used at night shows there are flaws in robotic technology, according to Chesworth.

“Unlike robots, humans can create, form relationships, and respond to out of the ordinary situations should one arise. Production lines where things never change are just one part of a business. Building relationships with suppliers and customers, and being able to think on their feet is something only conscious humans can do – you just have to look at Google Translate to really highlight this,” Chesworth continued.

Last year, the World Economic Forum said that more than seven million jobs were at risk from advances in technology in the world’s largest economies over the next five years. The Bank of England’s Chief Economist, Andy Haldane, painted an even more worrying picture. He said that up to 15 million jobs in Britain are at risk of being lost to robots. However, with this idea being long-drawn out, it’s unlikely to happen in many people’s current lifetime.

Chesworth emphasised that one way to streamline processes (without resorting to robotics) is to invest in quality equipment.

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