A humanoid robot Pepper wearing a face mask greets Tokyo Gov. Yuriko Koike at the lobby of a hotel for the new coronavirus COVID-19 patients. Picture: AP Photo/Eugene Hoshiko
A humanoid robot Pepper wearing a face mask greets Tokyo Gov. Yuriko Koike at the lobby of a hotel for the new coronavirus COVID-19 patients. Picture: AP Photo/Eugene Hoshiko

How robots in the workplace will help the post-Covid-19 world

By IOL Tech reporter Time of article published May 5, 2020

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Covid-19 has impacted the lives of millions across the globe, disrupted all industries and brought the world’s economy to a halt. 

Analysts predict the pandemic’s impact could be as devastating as the Great Depression, which lasted from 1929 to 1933.

From the use of automated laboratory tests to autonomous disinfectors in hospitals, robotics and automation technology are already playing a pivotal role in the health sector.

“The automotive industry has always been closely tied to robotics, and this is unlikely to change,” said Kurt Rosenberg, Managing Director of YASKAWA Southern Africa. 

“The fast-moving consumer goods (FMCG) and food markets, however, should see an increase and acceptance in the usage of robots and automation technologies. This is largely due to the ‘contact’ element, as health and safety officers will be even more concerned about cleanliness, sanitisation and hygiene in manufacturing processes, handling and distribution of goods, and factories. Considering COVID-19 can survive on certain surfaces, measures will need to be put in place to futureproof businesses from any potential outbreaks. And this is where robotics could come in to reduce contact and cross-contamination.”

In the 1970s, YASKAWA proposed the innovative concept of an unmanned factory termed “Mechatronics”. 

Since then, the concept has evolved into i³-Mechatronics, featuring further advancements and implementations of automation through the management of digital data. Not only do these solutions increase overall productivity and systems processes, but there’s also the ability to improve standards and quality of both the manufacturing plant and products. 

As the need for social distancing continues, industries that embraced i³-Mechatronics are better prepared to deal with the pandemic’s side effects. Robotised workforce is capable of business as usual even in unusual times.

Rosenberg believes a robot-powered workforce is the way of the future, both locally and internationally and say there are positive signs it’ll grow in the years to come as businesses provision for these types of advancements. 

However, there’s a fear that robots will take the place of humans in the workplace, hence the reluctance to embrace technology. 

Andrew Crackett, National Sales Manager at YASKAWA Southern Africa, believes it’s actually affording more opportunities to both organisations and employees.

“We’ve implemented several projects at labour-intensive organisations to streamline operations,” said Crackett. “Instead of seeing a reduction in staff, we’ve actually witnessed the employees reassigned to other areas or new positions. By freeing up resources, there’s the possibility to upskill and redeploy, while still improving the overall process and positively influencing the organisation. Robots will still need quality assurance, operators, and support staff, as an example.”

IOL TECH

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