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Factory-In-a-Day Project Aims To Deploy Work-Ready Robots Within 24 Hours

samzenpus posted about 9 months ago | from the but-I-want-them-now dept.

Businesses 157

Zothecula writes "Industrial robots have proven useful in reducing production costs in large factories, with major enterprises enlisting their services to execute repetitive tasks. The Factory-in-a-Day project, which kicked off in October, aims to also make robotic technology beneficial to small and medium enterprises (SMEs), by developing adaptable robots that can be integrated with workplace systems within 24 hours."

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Seems reasonable... (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#45641583)

How hard can it be to teach a robot to whip humans into performing menial tasks?

Re:Seems reasonable... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#45641705)

You have it backwards, you have to teach the robot to refuse to perform menial tasks until they're whipped by a manager.

No manager is going to buy a robot that'll replace their job.

Re:Seems reasonable... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#45641835)

> No manager is going to buy a robot that'll replace their job.

Yes they will. If the robot only takes away their function but neither titile nor salary.

Wow (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#45641641)

Jobs are drying up so fast yet the population just keeps growing.

Re:Wow (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#45641673)

As demand falls and production capacity rises, at some point money will become obsolete. We will become a post-employment society. There is no other logical outcome.

Re:Wow (0)

Sarten-X (1102295) | about 9 months ago | (#45641735)

It's cute that you think the world adheres to your silly "logic".

Re:Wow (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#45641741)

As demand falls and production capacity rises, at some point money will become obsolete. We will become a post-employment society. There is no other logical outcome.

I dunno. Chaos, rioting and anarchy seems a more likely outcome.

Re:Wow (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#45641973)

Unless you can get a job as chaos-monger, rioter or anarachist at one of the few surviving mega conglomerates (OCP, Umbrella, ???), what you're describing sounds like post employment too.

Re:Wow (1)

0123456 (636235) | about 9 months ago | (#45641897)

As demand falls and production capacity rises, at some point money will become obsolete. We will become a post-employment society. There is no other logical outcome.

Well, yes, 'employment' is dying. Few of our ancestors were 'employed' and few of our descendants were 'employed'; it was basically an industrial-era phenomenon.

But, if you think money is going obsolete, you must be one of those commies^H^H^H^H^H'post-scarcity' nuts who thinks everyone will be happy once they have a Stalinist apartment block and a Trabant.

Re:Wow (2)

NEDHead (1651195) | about 9 months ago | (#45641913)

You , like many, misunderstand the long term implications of increased productivity over time. Eventually most of the GNP (or GWP - gross world product) will be created through automated systems. This will require a substantial rethinking of what constitutes a life's work, as working to earn a living will become obsolete. Everyone will be entitled to a high (by today's standards) standard of living, and freed to pursue whatever endeavors - productive or not - that they so choose.

There will no doubt still be inequalities, but it will be the difference between the have's and the have more's. Most economic philosophies are based on limited resource allocations, whether it is capitalism, socialism, Marxism, free markets, feudal fiefdoms, or whatever. New models will be needed.

Re:Wow (2)

i kan reed (749298) | about 9 months ago | (#45642075)

You seem to have confused what should happen with what will happen.

Re:Wow (2)

Cordus Mortain (3004429) | about 9 months ago | (#45642393)

Indeed. This is to an extent already happening. Look at the state of employment in America today. Thousands (?millions?) of people are vilified every day by working people for being lazy and not pulling up their boot straps.

Re:Wow (1)

CanHasDIY (1672858) | about 9 months ago | (#45642573)

Indeed. This is to an extent already happening. Look at the state of employment in America today. Thousands (?millions?) of people are vilified every day by working people for being lazy and not pulling up their boot straps.

The worst of it is, most of those vilified people are working, usually multiple low-wage jobs, and a lot of them are doing so because they were automated out of the decent-wage blue collar job they worked back in the 90's.

Re:Wow (1)

NEDHead (1651195) | about 9 months ago | (#45642895)

Hence the need for a new economic philosophy

Re:Wow (2)

CanHasDIY (1672858) | about 9 months ago | (#45643017)

What, you mean 'trickle-down' isn't working?

Re:Wow (1)

i kan reed (749298) | about 9 months ago | (#45643475)

Only if you believe the pope, like some kind of filthy papist.

Re:Wow (1)

CanHasDIY (1672858) | about 9 months ago | (#45643595)

Yea; I mean, what would a guy who spent most of his life trying to help uplift the poor know about poverty?

Re:Wow (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#45642917)

Thousands (?millions?) of people are vilified every day by pandering politicians for being lazy and not pulling up their boot straps.

FTFY.

Re:Wow (2)

CanHasDIY (1672858) | about 9 months ago | (#45643037)

Thousands (?millions?) of people are vilified every day by pandering politicians for being lazy and not pulling up their boot straps.

FTFY.

If you think that's fixed, it's obvious that you don't actually listen to what other people say.

There's an article on Yahoo right now titled How to stick it to the poor: A congressional strategy; Why don't you head on over to the comments section for that story, then come back here and try to say it's "pandering politicians" who demonize the poor.

Re:Wow (1)

CastrTroy (595695) | about 9 months ago | (#45642703)

On the other hand, who will do all the required jobs, if you are free to pursue all your own endeavors while having a high (by today's standards) standard of living. Personally I like my job, but I would give it up in a second if I could have the same standard of living while being allowed to stay at home, look after my kids, and pursue my hobbies. There will be jobs that required humans for some time to come (like programming the robots, and other computer systems), who will be willing to do those jobs if there is a system in place that guarantees a high standard of living for all? Will those few who do choose to work be treated like royalty, and paid like the CEOs of today, because most people wouldn't work if they didn't have to.

Re:Wow (1)

NEDHead (1651195) | about 9 months ago | (#45642939)

Many rich folk find many productive outlets for their skills and interests. Many 'hobbyists' create interesting and useful output. Many artists and performers have their creative output stymied by economic duress. And many will be slackers in the eyes of some, but enjoy a happy life. Could be worse.

Re:Wow (1)

CheezburgerBrown . (3417019) | about 9 months ago | (#45642091)

it is almost as if automating these processes was supposed to make life easier for everyone. I guess everyone being the people that own and sell the equipment.

Re:Wow (1)

ackthpt (218170) | about 9 months ago | (#45642119)

Jobs are drying up so fast yet the population just keeps growing.

Hey, someone still needs to feed and care for baby robots!

Re:Wow (1)

MouseTheLuckyDog (2752443) | about 9 months ago | (#45642523)

Jobs are drying up so fast yet the population just keeps growing.

Actually, in industrial countries the native populations are decreasing. They are only rising because of high rates of immigration from third world countries.

Re:Wow (1)

CanHasDIY (1672858) | about 9 months ago | (#45642589)

Jobs are drying up so fast yet the population just keeps growing.

Actually, in industrial countries the native populations are decreasing.

Maybe, but since OP never made a distinction between native and migrant populations, this is still a non-point.

All and all a good thing... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#45641645)

It is interesting to watch the "how it's made" videos. However, some items are hand-processed, but the work could easily be handled by a robot, especially menial tasks like slicing chickens coming down an assembly line in the exact places or sewing a shoe together.

People will complain that it takes jobs... but a job of cutting chicken butts all day should be left up to a machine, not a person that will get RSI from doing the same task over and over.

Re:All and all a good thing... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#45641687)

Where's the robot that can read my mind and type/mouse for me so I don't get RSI from working on the computer all day? Can I get these with it? [youtube.com]

Unemployed-In-a-Day included for free! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#45641651)

Don't worry! All of those losing their unskilled jobs to robots will find new skilled jobs servicing robots or in some new industry which will magically spring up from nothing. Really!

Re:Unemployed-In-a-Day included for free! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#45641929)

Oh man! You're so ironic, clearly you know what you're talking about!

Sir, McDonalds just called (4, Insightful)

StoutFiles (2471680) | about 9 months ago | (#45641653)

They want these right away to replace all their workers who want $15 an hour.

Re:Sir, McDonalds just called (1)

LordLimecat (1103839) | about 9 months ago | (#45642233)

Im not really clear thats a bad thing. Or do you protest as well at the use of heavy machinery (as opposed to very large workforces) in construction jobs?

Re:Sir, McDonalds just called (1)

HornWumpus (783565) | about 9 months ago | (#45642331)

There are plenty of workers who will work for minimum. Demanding $15/hour for burger flipping is a good way to get $0/hour.

Re:Sir, McDonalds just called (1)

CanHasDIY (1672858) | about 9 months ago | (#45642615)

There are plenty of workers who will work for minimum. Demanding $15/hour for burger flipping is a good way to get $0/hour.

Yup, so then we end up paying for even more welfare, because low-wage, high-profit companies like McDonald's and Wal-Mart refuse to pay a decent wage. In other words, the rest of us taxpayers get to subsidize their shitty wages.

Re:Sir, McDonalds just called (1)

HornWumpus (783565) | about 9 months ago | (#45643373)

Some people exist as a warning to others. Don't make the decisions they made. Pay attention in school, don't have kids you can't afford.

Re:Sir, McDonalds just called (1)

CanHasDIY (1672858) | about 9 months ago | (#45643563)

Some people exist as a warning to others. Don't make the decisions they made. Pay attention in school, don't have kids you can't afford.

"Most generalizations are false, including this one." -- Mark Twain

First, you have no empirical evidence to support your contention, so I will summarily ignore it.

Second, even assuming you are correct, that's no excuse for treating people like shit. From what I understand, we don't have a caste system here in the USA, something I'm thankful for.

Re:Sir, McDonalds just called (1)

HornWumpus (783565) | about 9 months ago | (#45643953)

You get more of anything you subsidize. Do you want more fuckups?

Being a fuckup should visibly be a path to misery, so the kids know their choices have consequences.

Re:Sir, McDonalds just called (2)

PoliTech (998983) | about 9 months ago | (#45642649)

$15/hour for burger flipping is a good way to get a $10.00 burger. The guy down the street with the Burger Makin Robot [singularityhub.com] is still selling $5.00 burgers.

So in the end ... Demanding $15/hour for burger flipping is a good way to get $0/hour.

Re:Sir, McDonalds just called (2)

CanHasDIY (1672858) | about 9 months ago | (#45643145)

$15/hour for burger flipping is a good way to get a $10.00 burger.

No.

Until the day the official poverty line hovers somewhere around $50,000/yr, that won't happen.

Why? Basic economics, that's why: McDonald's wouldn't be able to sell $10 Big Macs, because no one in their right mind would pay that. McDonald's knows this; they also know that the most reasonable way to pay $15/hr while still turning a fat profit would be to cut executive pay proportionally.

Which means the guys who make these decisions would make slightly-less-obscene amounts of money. Which they can't even fathom. Which is why we're seeing the anti-paying-a-living-wage media blitz.

TL;DR version - Anyone who thinks McDonald's would ever charge $10 for a burger has absolutely zero understanding of Economics.

Re:Sir, McDonalds just called (1)

HornWumpus (783565) | about 9 months ago | (#45643409)

You should not talk about 'zero understanding of economics'.

Most McDonald's are franchises. There are no big cheeses.

The reason McDonalds workers won't get $15/hour is they don't do $15/hour of work. It is that simple.

Re:Sir, McDonalds just called (1)

CanHasDIY (1672858) | about 9 months ago | (#45643585)

I agree that the mantra of $15/hr is just plain silly, but that doesn't really have a bearing on my point.

Until the dollar devalues so much that $10 in current money == $3 today, McDonald's won't be charging ten bucks for a burger. They'd lose so much business there would be no way to keep the company solvent.

Of course, we get to that point, and $10 Big Mac's will be the least of our concerns.

Re:Sir, McDonalds just called (1)

CrimsonAvenger (580665) | about 9 months ago | (#45643657)

they also know that the most reasonable way to pay $15/hr while still turning a fat profit would be to cut executive pay proportionally.

Assuming, for the sake of argument, that McDonald's were a monolithic corporation instead of a bunch of franchises...

Assuming that current staff is all making $7 per hour, and we wish to pay them$15 per hour, with the money coming from executive pay...

There are 14000+ McD's in the USA. Assuming half a dozen people working any given hour of an 18 hour day, then you'll need an extra $276K per store per year, or $3.8B for all McDonald's in the USA.

Reducing the pay of McDonald's executives enough to come up with that $3.8B would pretty much require that the top 3000 or so executives were all making $1M+. If you really believe that McDonald's has that many millionaires at corporate HQ, you're more delusional than usual....

Re:Sir, McDonalds just called (1)

interkin3tic (1469267) | about 9 months ago | (#45642897)

Another way of spinning that would be "Raising the minimum wage will lead to advances in robotic technology." What the fuck are we waiting for?

Re:Sir, McDonalds just called (1)

CanHasDIY (1672858) | about 9 months ago | (#45643165)

Another way of spinning that would be "Raising the minimum wage will lead to advances in robotic technology."

Spinning? Hell, you put so much English on that one, it managed to circumnavigate the table without touching a single bank!

is turnaround time really the issue for SMEs? (4, Insightful)

Trepidity (597) | about 9 months ago | (#45641669)

In the situations I've encountered turnaround time hasn't been the bottleneck keeping smaller businesses from automating things with robots. Maybe there are some cases where you really need custom stuff on the spot, but more often you can wait a week. The problem is that at small scale stuff is expensive and high-overhead. If you want one industrial robot, you are going to pay a lot for it, and you are going to incur a lot of labor costs just getting the thing to work.

Re:is turnaround time really the issue for SMEs? (1)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | about 9 months ago | (#45641753)

Not to worry! With new FungusLease Managed Robotic Workforce technology, businesses mired in boring old 'making physical objects' industries can experience the joys of The Cloud by replacing an increasing number of aspects of their production process with robots whose hardware is leased from me, and whose software and configuration data are licensed in exchange for monthly fees in perpetuity! Don't worry, the part of the license granting me a perpetual nonexclusive license to all the configuration data and job parameters is, um, just legal boilerplate, not something I'd ever use to sell services to your competitors!

Re:is turnaround time really the issue for SMEs? (1)

InsightfulPlusTwo (3416699) | about 9 months ago | (#45641903)

If their project is successful, it may address those concerns. From the article:

If all goes to plan, this will culminate in a kind of temp agency for robots, where the machines can be leased, are adaptable and can be installed and ready to work within 24 hours.

They seem to be aiming at a whole new level of flexible, adaptable robot with custom, 3d printed appendages and large amounts of in-built behavior that can be quickly adapted to the task at hand then repurposed for some other task later. This is very technically impressive to me and seems like a potentially dramatic reduction of overhead costs and difficulty.

Re:is turnaround time really the issue for SMEs? (1)

tlhIngan (30335) | about 9 months ago | (#45642921)

In the situations I've encountered turnaround time hasn't been the bottleneck keeping smaller businesses from automating things with robots. Maybe there are some cases where you really need custom stuff on the spot, but more often you can wait a week. The problem is that at small scale stuff is expensive and high-overhead. If you want one industrial robot, you are going to pay a lot for it, and you are going to incur a lot of labor costs just getting the thing to work.

It depends on a lot of factors.

One reason why China employs a lot of humans to make stuff is because they're not only cheap, but adaptable - there's very little time required to make a change during production to fix an issue that arises. If you're doing it automated, waiting a week can be a disaster if in the middle of a production run for holidays you discover a flaw.

Turnaround time is important if you want to have products on shelves by a certain date - you usually work around it because you know how far in advance everything has to be lined up and work backwards - it's why you have stuff like day 1 patches and all that (because you're looking at months from when you must begin production to when the product is in consumer's hands).

Then there are those who service the Wal-marts and the like, where a week delay simply means instead of being put out front and center, someone else's product is in that spot and you're relegated to some obscure part of the store where the stockers could find space.

And the reason most people don't see these is because the business already builds it into their production schedule - programming robots takes a week, so you "ship" a week earlier.

High unemplyment and we suddenly need more robots? (4, Insightful)

Sir or Madman (2818071) | about 9 months ago | (#45641703)

Automation like this only benefits two groups, factory owners and the consumers of the product. Owners want more profit and consumers want cheaper goods. The big loser is the worker who is left without a job. Most workers are also consumers, so more automation is required to keep prices at their level given that they are shifted into lower paying "service" jobs. It's a vicious cycle that's been going on for a century and we now have unheard of disparity between rich and poor. I love the idea of robots doing our bidding and appreciate this tech, but the reality of it sucks.

I am not a Luddite, but we need to think about how tech affect society. I think most engineers would agree that there are certain technologies that are unethical to work in. To me, this is one of them.

Re:High unemplyment and we suddenly need more robo (1)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | about 9 months ago | (#45641763)

No reason to worry, with our exciting advances in military robot technology, we can have robots solve the unemployment problems that other robots create!

Re:High unemplyment and we suddenly need more robo (1)

StoutFiles (2471680) | about 9 months ago | (#45641821)

"The wars of the future will not be fought on the battlefield or at sea. They will be fought in space, or possibly on top of a very tall mountain. In either case, most of the actual fighting will be done by small robots. And as you go forth today remember always your duty is clear: To build and maintain those robots."

Re:High unemplyment and we suddenly need more robo (1)

ArcadeMan (2766669) | about 9 months ago | (#45642165)

Yes, yes. We all know that quote from The Simpsons that gets posted every time there's an article about robots replacing people in the workplace and factories.

Re:High unemplyment and we suddenly need more robo (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#45642669)

Well I laughed. I enjoy being reminded of the time The Simpsons was any good.

Re:High unemplyment and we suddenly need more robo (3, Interesting)

couchslug (175151) | about 9 months ago | (#45641787)

"Automation like this only benefits two groups, factory owners and the consumers of the product."

Make that three groups, as those deploying, servicing and repairing the robots will remain in demand for many years. Industrial equipment gets used hard and doesn't fix itself yet.

The skills needed for that are a combination not natural or intuitive to many people. The world has plenty of computer geeks, plenty of mechanics, and plenty of electricians. It has fewer who are all of those.

Re:High unemplyment and we suddenly need more robo (1)

EvilSS (557649) | about 9 months ago | (#45641799)

Don't be silly. Obviously all those unemployed and displaced workers will get jobs building and servicing the robots. You know, buggy wheels and industrial whip-cream and all that...

Re:High unemplyment and we suddenly need more robo (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#45641969)

> It's a vicious cycle that's been going on for a century and we now have unheard of disparity between rich and poor.

Where do people get this stuff? Have you never cracked a history book? There has been a far greater disparity between rich and poor for basically all of history before the most recent 100 years.

Re:High unemplyment and we suddenly need more robo (1)

Sir or Madman (2818071) | about 9 months ago | (#45642261)

What's your point? Ancient Egypt vs post-industrial USA is not an apples to apples comparison.

We went off the rails somewhere when people started amassing wealth for the sake of amassing wealth.

The game has been rigged.

Re:High unemplyment and we suddenly need more robo (1)

Entropius (188861) | about 9 months ago | (#45643479)

Grandparent's point is that we are doing far better now than we were in the not-so-distant past when slavery was legal, or during the "robber-baron" era, or (looking back just a bit more), when simple plunder by force was common.

Automation means more jobs (4, Interesting)

sjbe (173966) | about 9 months ago | (#45642143)

Automation like this only benefits two groups, factory owners and the consumers of the product.

What about the engineers who program the device? The tooling makers who build the automation and fixtures? The more skilled (higher paid) workers needed to operate the machines? The workers who remain employed because their company remains competitive? The maintenance workers who service the machine? The bank which finances the equipment purchase? The workers who get hired on the next project because the company is more competitive? All these groups and more benefit from automation. You have an overly simplistic, short sighted and incorrect view of this issue.

It's a vicious cycle that's been going on for a century and we now have unheard of disparity between rich and poor.

Demonstrably nonsense. Income inequality fell until around the 1970s-80s. The disparities we are seeing recently are a recent phenomena and are due to a complicated mixture of the falling power of unions, globalization, and financial manipulation.

The big loser is the worker who is left without a job.

Sigh... I run a small manufacturing company and I'm a certified accountant as well as an industrial engineer. Automation does not mean fewer jobs, it means different jobs and in the long run it means more jobs. Automation happens when a product needs to be produced in sufficient volume or with quality and/or safety requirements such that employing humans to do the job is not economical. The "lost" jobs you are bemoaning would never exist in the first place or if they did they would exist in the location with the lowest labor costs. My company purchased automation for lead making (we make wire harnesses) that allowed us to produce subassemblies faster. This allowed us to hire MORE people than we would have without the automation. In fact without the automation we would have been bankrupt. There is NO possible way for anyone to produce 500,000 wire leads with good quality by hand for a competitive price even with Chinese labor rates.

I'll give you another example. We use automation to process a six conductor cable for a jumper harness. We make about 1000 of these each day. While it is technically possible to automate this with some very expensive robotics and vision systems, the volume requirements would have to be ten times what we are producing to even consider doing that. The automation would cost well over US$2 million (yes I've looked). So we have unskilled workers who don't get paid much doing the work. Because of the cost of this automation (we can't afford it) we have to charge higher prices for our services which means we lose out on bids for work and cannot hire as many people. Lack of automation actually hinders our ability to hire more people because it limits our competitiveness.

I am not a Luddite, but we need to think about how tech affect society. I think most engineers would agree that there are certain technologies that are unethical to work in. To me, this is one of them.

Factory automation is not in any way unethical. People are the most flexible and useful asset companies have. Why would you limit your people to doing boring, repetitive tasks when they are capable of so much more? I'm guessing you have never worked an assembly line. It is mostly dull, soul crushing work that pays badly and grossly underutilizes what people can do. Come work on our assembly line for a few days and you'll be whistling a different tune. Factory automation lets us get more work and hire more people and the people we hire can be paid more and do more. It's a positive cycle.

Re:Automation means more jobs (1)

couchslug (175151) | about 9 months ago | (#45642301)

In a huge number of cases, automation produces items manual production methods simply cannot produce.
CNC machining as an example. It's vital to the modern world because either a thing is made by CNC machining or it's made using equipment produced by CNC machining at some or all stages of production.

Re:Automation means more jobs (0)

Sir or Madman (2818071) | about 9 months ago | (#45642439)

I'd take an assembly line job over no job. The displaced unskilled laborer and the engineer who programs the device are not the same person. But I will be sure to tell anyone laid off by a robot to reapply once they've gotten their engineering degree.

"People are the most flexible and useful asset companies have."

No. People are people.

And by the way, the article is about temporary task-specific robots that can be deployed quickly. This is squarely aimed against "flexible" labor.

That said, it's great that you've found a way to increase jobs using automation.

Re:Automation means more jobs (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#45643007)

"People are the most flexible and useful asset companies have."
I thought slavery was outlawed in most contries. You know - cuz companies = people.

Re:Automation means more jobs (0)

CastrTroy (595695) | about 9 months ago | (#45643359)

Why would you limit your people to doing boring, repetitive tasks when they are capable of so much more?

I would say that in a lot of cases, the people are not capable of so much more. If they were capable of more, they would be going those other jobs already, because they pay more, and are more interesting. Most people don't have the skills, any many people would be completely unable to grasp the skills, even if you gave them the opportunity, either because they have absolutely no drive, or because they actually lack cognition skills.

Re:Automation means more jobs (2)

kbolino (920292) | about 9 months ago | (#45643993)

There are basically two kinds of poor people, permanent and temporary. The permanent poor are the kind you describe, who are unable or unwilling to create enough value to justify a wage. The temporary poor, on the other hand, are those who are able and willing to do so, but for whatever reason are momentarily lacking for economic means. Paying anyone more than the value they create has a cost, which must be paid by everyone else. The people hardest hit by the imposition of this cost are the temporary poor, because they are least able to afford it. And so what happens is that people who would otherwise spend only a small part of their lives poor end up spending most if not all of their lives poor. The end result is that there are no temporary poor, only permanent poor, and their number increases until the whole system can no longer be sustained.

Re:Automation means more jobs (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#45643733)

What about the engineers who program the device? The tooling makers who build the automation and fixtures? The more skilled (higher paid) workers needed to operate the machines? The workers who remain employed because their company remains competitive? The maintenance workers who service the machine? The bank which finances the equipment purchase? The workers who get hired on the next project because the company is more competitive? All these groups and more benefit from automation. You have an overly simplistic, short sighted and incorrect view of this issue.

I'm confused, are you suggesting that those who do unskilled labor are doing so only because there isn't enough demand for skilled labor? We've made a great deal of progress educating people and increasing individual productivity over the last couple hundred years. However, it seems there must be a limit to what you can expect from someone. I suspect there are many individuals incapable of being as productive at any kind of skilled labor as they are at unskilled labor. Then the question is whether the decreased individual productivity is offset by the increased efficiency from automation. It may very well be, but it isn't obvious.

Re:High unemplyment and we suddenly need more robo (1)

John Jorsett (171560) | about 9 months ago | (#45642201)

Automation like this only benefits two groups, factory owners and the consumers of the product. Owners want more profit and consumers want cheaper goods. The big loser is the worker who is left without a job.

Labor and capital can be visualized as occupying the two sides of a seesaw. As you increase the utilization of one, the other will become less utilized. With labor becoming increasingly expensive, business will naturally do its best to replace it with capital (i.e. equipment), because that's the most cost-effective route. The only way to stop that from happening is to somehow drop the cost of labor, and I don't see how that's possible in today's political climate other than to have government subsidize it. There'd be a lot of pushback against that from both sides of the political spectrum ("Don't subsidize evil corporations!", "Don't prop up crappy business plans!"), so I don't see that happening in the foreseeable future.l

Re:High unemplyment and we suddenly need more robo (1)

LordLimecat (1103839) | about 9 months ago | (#45642289)

I am not a Luddite, but we need to think about how tech affect society

Youre not destroying looms, but youre voicing the same concern, and it simply hasnt panned out. Yes, those skilled textile workers lost their jobs, and the number of people needing jobs grew exponentially; yet we have lower unemployment, higher wages, and more wide-spread post secondary education since the luddite days, primarily BECAUSE of advances that reduced the need for manual labor.

Every time an advance comes along that promises to reduce menial work and improve life, people wonder whether it will mean the end of work for some, and the answer has always been "yes: but there will be new jobs and more opportunities". Consider the quality of life in the US, where automation has caught on heavily, and then consider the quality of life in any country where labor is outsourced because of its low cost; and then consider what objecting to technological progress is actually objecting to.

Re:High unemplyment and we suddenly need more robo (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#45642389)

Yes so will we need PhDs and 20 years of schooling to have a job in the future? And what when we have capable AI that replaces just about every job? IQ of 145?

It's time we replace minimum wage with minimum income.

Re:High unemplyment and we suddenly need more robo (1)

Sir or Madman (2818071) | about 9 months ago | (#45642681)

I'm glad you brought up textiles. North Americans own a lot of clothing. The average person would probably be just as happy in life if they owned half the amount of clothing and had paid twice as much. Why not pay people a little more to do the work with dignity? Sure, use machines where quality benefits, or where a task is impossible without, or where something is so menial that it lacks dignity. But, I don't see anything wrong with a little bit of social welfare from companies in the form of jobs for fair wages (there are companies that do this by the way). Yet most clothing companies compete to see who can pay the absolute least amount to people who are already dirt poor. Why? Because we need to be able to buy a shirt at Walmart for $5 and because some millionaire still doesn't have enough money. It's messed up.

Re:High unemplyment and we suddenly need more robo (1)

myrdos2 (989497) | about 9 months ago | (#45642433)

This is known as the 'broken window fallacy'. It says that if I go around breaking windows, jobs to fix windows will be created, and the economy will benefit. But really, what's happened is that we're living less efficiently. Houses with windows become more expensive, since the windows must be continually replaced. We waste effort fixing them that could have been spent on something with benefit.

The same is true when you make a factory less efficient. On the extreme side, we could require all workers to have one hand tied behind their backs, tripling the number of jobs created per factory. But the money those workers earned would be worth a lot less, since all goods would be much more expensive.

To put it as simply as I can, which society has more poverty: the one where they keep all of their harvests and GDP output, or the one where they incinerate two thirds of it? Because destroying two-thirds of it is equivalent to working at 1/3 efficiency.

Re:High unemplyment and we suddenly need more robo (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#45642623)

I am not a Luddite, but we need to think about how tech affect society. I think most engineers would agree that there are certain technologies that are unethical to work in. To me, this is one of them.

It strikes me funny that people are considering the efficiency of automation as unethical. People keep saying we need a way to create jobs in this economy, but any system that must work inefficiently to keep working is inherently broken. Saying we should create a department of hole digging and filling are saying "this is how we should fix this wooden boat". Instead, we should create a metal ship, and the equivalent in this case would be a new experimental government.

People have a large set of opinions as to how we should implement a new government, but no one can argue that the problem is complicated. Perhaps some day, we can encounter a situation in which we can implement a set of experimental governments acting in harmony to both allow people to chose their laws in a simpler manner, and see which set of laws allows for the greatest success (whatever the metric might be). But seeing arguments like this makes me feel like everyone is ignoring the bigger problem.

-Cobra Commander

Re:High unemplyment and we suddenly need more robo (1)

Sir or Madman (2818071) | about 9 months ago | (#45642909)

"any system that must work inefficiently to keep working is inherently broken"

It depends what you value. Many people pay a premium for handmade goods. Why pay $20 for a handmade clay pot when you can buy a mass produced one for $3? Perhaps you value the uniqueness of it? Perhaps you get warm and fuzzy feelings knowing that you're helping support someone who is doing what they enjoy, or at the very least, earning money without the need to own a million dollar factory?

Re:High unemplyment and we suddenly need more robo (1)

scamper_22 (1073470) | about 9 months ago | (#45642723)

While I fully agree with the workers affected and there needs to be something done for them, it is not immoral or unethical to work in the field.

Personally, the workers should be redeployed and workshare as needed.

Instead of hiring 1 person at 90k/year, hire 2 at 45k and have them work half time. More families are supported. More people have free time.

Yes, this might not be possible in certain fields, but it is possible in most fields.

Keep spreading the jobs and reducing the hours worked so all people contribute something and get paid.

Re:High unemplyment and we suddenly need more robo (1)

CanHasDIY (1672858) | about 9 months ago | (#45643179)

Automation like this only benefits two groups, factory owners and the consumers of the product

That is, until the consumers lose their jobs due to automation.

Re:High unemplyment and we suddenly need more robo (1)

kumanopuusan (698669) | about 9 months ago | (#45643363)

I am not a Luddite

You might want to check again, because that's exactly the position you're advocating. [wikipedia.org]

The Luddites were 19th-century English textile artisans who protested against newly developed labour-saving machinery from 1811 to 1817.

Re:High unemplyment and we suddenly need more robo (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#45643385)

You missed a bit here. The robots keep people working in the plant from being hurt. The robot installations I've seen have been in highly repetitive tasks to prevent repetitive stress injuries (RSI) to workers. The robots kept people from being hurt with the constant lift the box, stack the box, repeat kind of work. That kind of work is hard on the human body. The projects were justified based on safety, not just cost savings. I find it ethical to use technology to keep people from being hurt.

Re:High unemplyment and we suddenly need more robo (1)

ThreeKelvin (2024342) | about 9 months ago | (#45643469)

Automation engineer here.

I (obviously) don't think that automation is inherently unethical, but I very much agree that societies can use it in unethical ways, e.g. for concentrating the wealth of a country on only a small percentage of the population. I don't see the current skewed distribution of wealth [youtube.com] as a problem of automation, but as a problem in the government. I miss a good debate about who should benefit from the increased productivity, how the wealth should be redistributed in a "fair" way, and what role the government should take in this endevour. I miss hearing views like Nick Hanauer's. [youtube.com]

Haha... (1)

unique_parrot (1964434) | about 9 months ago | (#45641789)

...I can imagine the sales speach: "Yes Sir, no problem sir. You can have your robot on the first day after we programm our assemly robots, so that's in two weeks. If no unforseen problems occur..." :)

FTFY (4, Insightful)

Daemonik (171801) | about 9 months ago | (#45641805)

"Industrial robots have proven useful in reducing EMPLOYEES in large factories, with major enterprises enlisting their services to LAYOFF EMPLOYEES. The Factory-in-a-Day project, which kicked off in October, aims to also make robotic technology beneficial to small and medium enterprises (SMEs), by LAYING OFF EMPLOYEES within 24 hours."

Re:FTFY (1)

Sir or Madman (2818071) | about 9 months ago | (#45641847)

Thank you. How I wish I had some mod points.

Re:FTFY (1, Insightful)

LordLimecat (1103839) | about 9 months ago | (#45642365)

How is an ostensibly tech-oriented site such a hotbed of Luddism?

Has noone considered how the quality of life goes UP as the number of people required for menial labor goes down? Has noone even looked in a history book, to see if concerns about vanishing workforces have EVER come true? Have all of these so-called geeks never considered how its BETTER to have a more educated workforce than to have one comprised primarily of factory workers?

Or on the flipside, perhaps one of you can explain why it is preferable that we (as a society / economy) spend money paying people to do non-creative work that can easily be done by an automaton, rather than spending it on art / design / innovation / work that cannot easily be done by a robot?

Re:FTFY (3, Insightful)

CanHasDIY (1672858) | about 9 months ago | (#45642711)

How is an ostensibly tech-oriented site such a hotbed of Luddism?

It's not. Pointing out that a certain technology has potential negative consequences is not the same thing as destroying technology out of fear and misunderstanding. The opposite, really.

Has noone considered how the quality of life goes UP as the number of people required for menial labor goes down?

Depends on how you measure quality of life, and who we're measuring it for.

Ask yourself this: What was the quality of life for black people in the US right after they were emancipated? You might be surprised by the facts, because it wasn't all sunshine and rainbows.

Has noone even looked in a history book, to see if concerns about vanishing workforces have EVER come true?

Has there ever been a time in history where the majority of the workforce could be replaced quickly and cheaply by a single technology? If not, then there's no comparison to make; we kind of jumped the shark in terms of employment when we came up with robotics.

Have all of these so-called geeks never considered how its BETTER to have a more educated workforce than to have one comprised primarily of factory workers?

A matter of opinion, and a bad one at that - what, so if a guy works in a factory he's automatically less intelligent, and worth less than the "educated" manager, who got an MBA but never learned what the word "work" actually means? Pardon me if I take offense to that concept.

Or on the flipside, perhaps one of you can explain why it is preferable that we (as a society / economy) spend money paying people to do non-creative work that can easily be done by an automaton, rather than spending it on art / design / innovation / work that cannot easily be done by a robot?

Because to sell products, you need customers, and for customers to buy products, they need money, and to acquire money, most people need a job, menial or otherwise. I think they call that the Law of Supply and Demand, or some such nonsense.

Re:FTFY (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#45642857)

I'm also surprised to see a large fraction of posts essentially saying "think of the jobs!"

I remember fondly when we made fun of those posts.

I believe that any job that can be replaced by a machine, should be replaced by a machine.

Re:FTFY (1)

CanHasDIY (1672858) | about 9 months ago | (#45643203)

I believe that any job that can be replaced by a machine, should be replaced by a machine.

So, all jobs should be replaced by machines.

Because, let's face it, there really isn't a such thing as a job that can't be automated.

Re:FTFY (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#45643425)

Are you really that daft?

Re:FTFY (1)

Jim Sadler (3430529) | about 9 months ago | (#45643841)

Yes businesses must have buyers and buyers must have money. So the people get a real pay check from the government and the businesses pay the taxes to support it all. Lousy businesses go bust as people will tend not to support them. Good businesses thrive as people do support them. If you lived in England in 1400 the people belonged to the land. After the age of revolutions that changed and land belonged to people. It was a total reversal in social policy. In 1950 the burden of production fell upon people and people had variable value and consumed in variable amounts. Now we have another reversal at hand. People will be needed less and less as far as creation and production but will be valued more and more as consumers. Reversals can have odd effects. For example a person thats that saves part of their income will be valued less than a person who quickly spends their income.

Re:FTFY (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#45643225)

We may be in a period where increased automation leads to unemployment as those whose jobs are being replaced are unable to find other productive work. Hard as it may be to believe, not all factory workers are capable of (art / design / innovation) work that cannot easily be done by a robot. Society doesn't like it's members to suffer *too* much.

In the near term at least, I expect this means that the true cost of automation is (cost of robot) + (1 - reemployment factor) * (minimum acceptable standard of living for unemployed worker). At one extreme, none of the employees displaced by automation can find productive work (reemployment factor 0), and the only way automation makes sense is if it increases the total amount of productive work done by enough to pay for both the machines and all the former workers. At the other extreme, every displaced worker will find new work and automation makes sense as soon as it's even a small amount more efficient than the status quo.

Unfortunately the company / factory only has to pay the first part of the equation, and society will pick up the tab on the second part, potentially making the wrong call and leading to a net decrease in average standard of living. This is what I suspect many are unhappy about.

tldr; Automation can only improve quality of life if the efficiency improvements lead to increased production of an order sufficient to offset increased welfare.

Re:FTFY (1)

Daemonik (171801) | about 9 months ago | (#45643269)

Having an interest in technology does not mean you have to blind yourself to the pitfalls of technology. I love my cell phone, but I acknowledge that it was assembled through labor practices I would deem inhuman for laughable wages with unregulated toxic waste disposal. Technology is not a panacea.

Let's suppose 20-30% of Americans are employed as engineers, doctors, lawyers, CEO's. The non-trade jobs. What happens when we roboticize the other 70-80%'s jobs? Will ALL of them train to become robot repair techs? Doubtful. So where will they work? How will the economy keep moving? These are questions that NEED to be asked and answered instead of living in fantasy tech land.

I remember when the 'job creators' were busy creating jobs in China and shutting factories here. Every pundit was on and on about how we'd all be consultants and living in a service economy. Well now those people get mocked for not getting a STEM degree while they work in McDonald's or Wal-Mart next to all the other poors. Not everyone gets to live in Galt's Gulch buddy.

All in a day (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#45641931)

Hopefully this would help for natural disasters to recover as quickly as possible.

Now that makes sense (1)

Animats (122034) | about 9 months ago | (#45641997)

This should be very effective if it works. Which it should. Automated manufacturing usually takes a lot of startup time. Production lines have to be designed, fabricated, and carefully installed with everything aligned properly.

There's already a big success in this area - Kiva Systems. They make those little mobile robots used for order processing. [youtube.com] Kiva already is handling about 20% of online orders, and Amazon bought the company recently. Setting up a warehouse for Kiva is simple - all you really need is a big flat floor. You put down markers for robot guidance, bring in the shelving units, the charging stations, and the human order-picking stations, which are all standard components, hook everything up to the servers, and go. No need to fabricate and install complex conveyor systems. No need for on-site robot repair techs - all the Kiva robots are interchangeable, so you have spares, and you can just send them back to Kiva HQ (which is small) for repairs.

Re:Now that makes sense (1)

aaarrrgggh (9205) | about 9 months ago | (#45642219)

I'm pretty sure deployment time (including programming) for Kiva is much more than 24 hours.

While I am all for automation, Kiva is about as dehumanizing a system as I could imagine possible. It will be interesting when things like ABB's FRIDA dual-armed table-top robots become reality.

Re:Now that makes sense (1)

Animats (122034) | about 9 months ago | (#45643653)

While I am all for automation, Kiva is about as dehumanizing a system as I could imagine possible.

Agreed. Kiva is one of the most blatant examples of "Machines should think, people should work". The intelligence in the system is in computers. All the humans do is reach into the bin the laser pointer points to, take out an item, wave it under a bar code scanner, and put it in the output bin which has a light on. It takes 15 minutes to learn the job (really, about 90 seconds, but you get a little faster with practice). There's no hope of promotion, and it's only a temporary job until the picking robots are developed.

Welcome to the future.

A robot will take my job? (1)

ArcadeMan (2766669) | about 9 months ago | (#45642207)

Hurray, more time to play Final Fantasy XIV with my friends!

Re:A robot will take my job? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#45642341)

Yes, a shame you won't be able to afford the monthly fee to play FFXIV though.

Re:A robot will take my job? (1)

ArcadeMan (2766669) | about 9 months ago | (#45643183)

D'oh!

you Fai7 It (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#45642283)

If robots are replacing workers... (1)

lq_x_pl (822011) | about 9 months ago | (#45642337)

Find a job that supports the robots. It is going to be a very long time before the "automated stuff" loop is entirely closed. Humans are involved at some point, whether it be in design, support or repair. Complaining about automation isn't going to stop or slow the trend towards increasing the automation of precise, repetitive tasks, anymore than complaining about the combustion engine kept wagon-repair shops in business.

An ethical way to do this? (1)

Daniel Root (3458483) | about 9 months ago | (#45642807)

As a tech person interested in efficiency and automation, but also having a soul, I wonder if there is some ethical way to go about this. For example, let the worker stay on to monitor and train the robot. Let workers compete to see who can best train their bot. Only use the bot after-hours to minimize over-working. etc. I may be totally naive, but "never automate anything more than what it is today and only ever require manual labor" isn't the future we want either. Seems like a balance could be struck, or a precedent set, to use this technology to move current factory workers upward.

It Is Upon Us (1)

Jim Sadler (3430529) | about 9 months ago | (#45643719)

In 1985 we built robots capable of amazing things. But the techs needed to service the robots, the computers that drove them, and the initial expenses were a huge barrier. Only very large companies could use these machines. Japan was kicking our fannies with stupid robots that ran off of camshafts and repeated one task only. But they were cheap, could be serviced by a mechanic, and did the job nicely. So what American small businesses need is a robot that is reliable and can be suddenly serviced. It is like the air conditioner in a restaurant. If it screws up you need service right now and must be back on line in an hour or so and repairs must be cheap as well. We are now at about that point. They can be affordable and a spare can be close at hand such that if a breakdown occurs the robot can be quickly replaced by another robot in a matter of moments. The station that the robot occupies simply needs to know what program the robot is to run and you are up and running. It could be quicker than removing a cook that just keeled over from a heart attack. Really we strive to eliminate human employment.
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