Robots Spark Job Growth in Electronics Industry
New data dispel the myth that automation negatively impacts jobs. Robots are credited for sustaining job growth in the flourishing electronics industry despite the Great Recession. According to a report by the International Federation of Robotics (IFR), from 2008 to 2011 robotics created up to 80,000 jobs in the electronics sector.
The IFR report is based on an updated 2013 study by research firm Metra Martech. The study concluded that for every robot deployed, 3.6 jobs are created. By 2016 robotics is expected to account for an additional 110,000 electronics jobs across the globe.
"This encouraging growth trend is evidence that robots do indeed create jobs," says IFR President Arturo Baroncelli. "In the electronics industry in particular, robots are lauded for their superhuman speed and precision when faced with often dull, repetitive tasks. There is simply no other way to achieve these production levels. The worldwide consumer demand for smartphones, computers, video game consoles, and a new generation of high-tech electronics depends on robotic automation."
The report notes that robotics is critical to the production process when the product cannot be made to satisfactory precision, consistency, or cost without flexible automation. This demand for uniform high quality at affordable cost accounts for the highest employment increase in the electronics sector through 2011. It's expected to continue to grow in importance as technology advances.
Job growth is attributed to electronics manufacturers and their suppliers gearing up to meet the increased demand. Manufacturers are expanding and adding more facilities, recruiting automation specialists and technicians, and hiring support personnel. The local economies and infrastructure benefit from the ripple effect of this manufacturing investment.
Around the world, at least 2.1 million jobs in this sector depend on robotics, as noted in the report. Countries with a traditional stronghold in low-cost electronics assembly, such as China, will need to deploy more robotics to remain competitive on the world stage. Robotic automation is already enabling companies located in North America and Europe to reshore manufacturing operations and reduce host countries' trade deficits.
The financial and business news have been infused with these success stories in recent years. In the Netherlands at Royal Philips Electronics, workers expecting to lose their jobs were astonished when they learned the company was reshoring production of its electric shavers from China (source: Bloomberg). Flexible robotic automation was credited for the move (source: Assembly). In the U.S., Flextronics International is adding jobs at its Texas facility for production of a next generation desktop computer reported to be the new Apple Mac Pro (source: Statesman).