We’ve got manless drones soaring around and children scooting down the streets on electrical motorized machines. Half our cashiers are robots who always seem to suspect we’re trying to steal something. Feels like we’re 2 clicks and a short hop away from Skynet.
With all this automation, many welders are worried their jobs are on the line. This fear isn’t unfounded. Two centuries ago, almost every aspect of the manufacturing process was carried out with human hands. Today, some assembly lines are up to 98% automated by machines. How long until we’re all being replaced by Jonny5 and the Weldinator? Turns out for most of us, we’ve got quite a long time until we need to worry. That isn’t just opinion either. Here’s the main reasons why robots won’t replace welders any time soon:
Creativity: Here’s how robots work. Their brains, their thoughts and their perceptions are all numbers. If it can’t be expressed in numbers, it can’t be comprehended by a robot. By their very nature, creativity and inspiration stretch well beyond the bounds of numbers. Robots simply can’t comprehend that type of creative inspiration that really drives the heart and soul behind a lot of welding jobs.
Flexibility: Robots are programmed for specific tasks. Your coffee machine might make lattes like a pro, but the moment you’re craving a cool glass of lemonade, it’s worthless. Currently, robot welders are used for very specific, repetitive task. If the job somehow varies even slightly away from the robots programming, it has to be reprogram for the new task. That means welding robots are only economically sound for huge operations doing the same thing over and over. For instance, robot welders are used for the very specific task of welding ships’ hull blocks together. But because the rest of the ship requires so many different types of welds in different situations, even the most advanced ship building companies have to rely on human flexibility for the majority of the process.
The Trend: Robotics and computers have made progress in leaps and bounds over the past decade, but not in a way that would replace welders. Most of the focus has been placed on computer software (the brains of the robots). So while we might have smartphones that could run the Apollo 11 rocket ship, there’s not a robot on this planet that can double knot a shoe by itself. The main trend in the computer industry has been focused on creating a better Angry Birds game or TurboTax software, not developing hardware with enough fine motor skills to replace a welder.
Leadership: When something goes wrong, robots have a hard time managing themselves. They simply don’t have the will to survive which takes away any reason to find a solution. In reality, robots could care less what happens because they don’t have the capacity to care at all. Because of this, robots will always be tools for humans, rather than replacements. Take for example, the farming industry. 20 years ago, it was predicted that farms would be completely automated. Instead technology didn’t replace the farmer, but invented robot tools to make his job more efficient. A combine still can’t run itself nor can an automatic pipe layer move pipe to the right areas unless a human tells it where to go.
So next time you’re staring at your toaster, silently wondering when it will replace you, just relax. Human welders are here to stay. That isn’t to say technology doesn’t have an impact on the welding world. Even within the last 10 years, the advances from Transformer to Inverter-based tech has been huge. Don’t keep up with the times and you could find yourself using dinosaur welding techniques with equipment that makes your life 10 times more difficult.
Here’s a couple of our favorite posts to help keep you up on the most recent changes in welding. If you haven’t revisited inverter-based welders, auto-darkening helmets or plasma cutters in the last couple years, you won’t believe how much has changed.