Robot takeover of the workplace is speeding up, study says

Robots are expected to take over human jobs in the next decade at a faster pace, as the technology becomes cheaper and smarter, according to a new study.

Companies will dedicate three times more money to the technology in the next ten years to offset rising labor costs, according to the Boston Consulting Group study.
The growing investment will reduce the cost of manufacturing labor for the world’s top exporters by 16 percent by 2025 and will result in cheaper products, the study found.

“For many manufacturers, the biggest reasons for not replacing workers with robots have been pure economics and technical limitations,” said Michael Zinser, a partner at the Boston Consulting Group in a news release.

“But the price and performance of automation are improving rapidly. Within five to ten years, the business case for robots in most industries will be compelling, even for many small and mid-sized manufacturers,” he said.

The cost of using a robotic spot welder, for example, fell from $182,000 in 2005 to $133,000 last year and will fall even further by 2025, the group predicts.

As robots become smarter, they are able to take into account unexpected situations and respond using more complex algorithms. They are expected to take over one-quarter of industrial manufacturing tasks, up from 10 percent today.

“As labor costs rise around the world, it is becoming increasingly critical that manufacturers rapidly take steps to improve their output per worker to stay competitive,” said Harold L. Sirkin, a BCG senior partner. “Companies are finding that advances in robotics and other manufacturing technologies offer some of the best opportunities to sharply improve productivity.”

The company studied 21 industries in 25 countries and conducted interviews with experts, clients and analyzed industry reports.