September 4, 2020
How We Should View Automation
Precis of "Here’s why human-robot collaboration is the future of manufacturing" by the World Economic Forum
The World Economic Forum released a brief analysis on how the COVID-19 pandemic might change the way we view automation. This article is reminiscent of Elon Musk’s tweet, “excessive automation at Tesla was a mistake...humans are underrated”. Even an individual whose entire platform surrounds automation admits that humans are needed in the manufacturing sector.
The world is getting more comfortable with the new normal and can reflect on the changes imposed by the pandemic. The World Economic Forum points out that as technology and society change, skilled trades need to adapt just as quickly. The emergence of the COVID-19 pandemic presented one of the biggest needs for adaptability within the industry.
Suddenly, March saw non-essential travel restricted and the only places open for business were grocery stores and pharmacies. Some factories were shut down due to them being deemed non-essential, while others were pressed to meet the “modern demands of mass customization, higher product variability and quality expectations, and faster product cycles”. This is an ongoing issue as many automated machines are designed to carry out only one function and are not adaptable in the long term, overall complicating the chain of production. Indeed, the COVID-19 pandemic has accentuated how the manufacturing industry adapts to change and utilizes automation.
This article outlines the juxtaposition of automation and human workers in a factory setting. On the one hand, automation in the long-term might save a company money. Machines have the precision and ability to do repetitive work that humans may not be able to. On the other, increasing automation is “expensive and time-consuming to design”. As well, it has been proven time and time again that humans have the innate creativity and adaptability that machines could never learn.

Humans will not be replaced by robots just yet, and it is comforting to know that society continues to value the unique abilities of skilled human labour.

Public Relations