As Thailand 4 not only gathers pace, but is showing itself to be very successful, the idea of automation – and specifically robotics – is becoming more and more a topic for discussion. The question of whether robots (or cobots) should continue to be deployed in Thai industry to a greater degree, is likely to trigger a mixed reaction, depending who you ask and what type of machinery or application is being introduced. Robots aren’t always robots, some would have us believe.
The new age of automation and robotics in Thailand
Thailand is certainly not lagging behind with adopting automation. According to the International Federation of Robotics, Thailand is now the eighth largest market globally in the adoption of robotics.
For the businessman, the new automation projects boosted, triggered and supported by the government, could truly be a great way to streamline processes, systems and profits at the same time. The government no doubt sees the new cutting-edge innovations as not only a way to ensure a greater and more valuable national production, but also as a way to help eradicate any cultural inequalities. But for the everyday worker it can all seem a bit scary. For the unskilled employee, there is likely to be the fear that these new robots are going to be taking their jobs.
But in reality, the future may not be as bleak as it at first may seem for the employee. The reason many put forward for this is – we are not talking about your everyday robot here – we are talking about cobots.
What is a cobot?
A cobot is a collaborative robot. According to Universal Robots, cobots are an offshoot of traditional industrial robots. They are light and mobile in terms of deployment, and are flexible enough to be modified for different applications. In other words, they help with the production line rather than actually replacing workers doing their jobs. They are meant to enhance performance and raise productivity while producing higher quality products.
A change of roles
This explanation may sound a little like placating the workers, but Shermine Gotfedsen, General Manager of Denmark-based Universal robots said “Contrary to popular belief that many jobs will be lost through the automation process, an entirely new set of roles will be created.” In other words, as the cobots become part of the production line, employees will find new tasks maintaining the machinery.
An upgrading of job role?
So, this sounds more like there will be a role change here. Instead of the worker leading the task within the process, the cobot (as a cog within the system) will be assisted by the worker. But that is perhaps not as bad as it may sound either. Before the innovation of the new cobots, workers on factory lines may well have found themselves doing highly repetitive boring jobs. The new processes which would ask for more technical skills, would mean the worker would have to learn a new role and not be restricted to the same tasks everyday as they update and maintain the systems.
A solution to job loss
The Thai government is very aware of the fact that there could well be, at least on some level, a loss of jobs. It is therefore being highly proactive in offering investments and incentives to attract robotics firms – with the aim of building jobs in servicing, manufacturing, and designing these new tools.
It is also predicted that the new processes will in fact lead to higher and more valuable production which in turn will lead to a higher demand. With higher demand business owners in turn will need to upgrade systems and employ more workers. Consequently this could eventually lead to a richer lifestyle across the country as more skilled jobs are available.
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