Are We Working for Robots?

Robots work for us. They make our work safer and easier. They pick up big, heavy objects, and carry out repetitive tasks for us with precision and efficiency that no human can replicate. We don’t have to worry about machines working in extreme temperatures or in hazardous work environments; that’s what they’re designed to do. They work tirelessly, never needing a sick day or a break. Robots aren’t prone to error like us humans; we give automated systems a set of rules and trust that they carry out those instructions the right way every single time. Robots and automation work for us, doing the grunt work and making our lives more convenient and less taxing.

At least that’s how we tend to view things.

Could it be that we aren’t really in charge? Josh Dzieza wrote an article for The Verge in which he explored the work relationship between man and machine. We often hear concerns that employers will continue putting robots to work and replace human workers with machines. However, technology has already been promoted — machines are in management.

Who’s really the boss?

Humans use automation whenever we possibly can. Machines allows us to maximize efficiency and productivity. We generally view this as a positive thing. However, there’s a flip side to increased automation, especially when it comes to tracking data.

An increase in automation puts some employees under an unprecedented level of scrutiny. Automated systems can track the exact number of keystrokes that a software developer hits in a minute. They know precisely how long it takes for housekeeping staff to clean a hotel room. Big data allows managers to identify how long it should take for an employee to perform a task, and creates a standard that can measure employee performance.

This data provides valuable information, but capturing keystrokes and lulls in productivity is a slippery slope. As management looks for ways to increase efficiency and get leaner by trimming the fat, employees suffer.

Operating at maximum efficiency

With machines dictating work rate, humans workers are being pushed to constantly work at capacity as though they were machines. Dzieza’s article focuses on the intense work rate that Amazon warehouse workers are forced to keep up. Pay can be docked if workers don’t meet these goals, and Amazon can immediately fire workers that don’t meet their hourly quota for package fulfillment.

Automated systems go from being a useful tool to increase productivity to a relentless taskmaster. Knowing that technology is always looking over your shoulder pushes employees to constantly work harder and faster. This takes takes a physical toll on your body if you’re performing manual labor, but there’s also a mental aspect regardless of the type of work you perform.

The added stress of constant supervision and pressure to be productive can actually increase the number of mistakes that we make and decrease our happiness and job satisfaction. It creates feelings of inadequacy and worry that your work isn’t good enough. Automated systems identify inefficiencies and errors that even the most perceptive person might miss.

That five minute coffee break can keep workers happy and productive, but machines view it as a waste of company time. It can be the mental break needed to prevent errors, accidents, injuries. It may be the difference between misery and finding purpose and taking pride in one’s work.

Technology is a tool

We still call the shots; robot overlords don’t exist. Machines work for us, and they are indispensable in modern manufacturing.

Make sure that your Indramat system keeps working at its best. Call 479-422-0390 for support and service for Indramat industrial motion control systems. We offer preventive maintenance and inspection, Indramat troubleshooting, and factory repair services for Indramat products.