Welcome to the Robot Remix news bulletin, where we share a summary of the week's need-to-know robotics and automation news.
In today's email -
- Automation may not reduce jobs?
- A new robotics focused VC fund.
- More Disney stunt robots.
- Robot Cameramen.
The Big Idea
More robots, more jobs?
Germany has 30% more robots per 10,000 employees than the USA, but American employees are 400% more like to lose or leave their manufacturing job than their German counterparts. Wired and the MIT released an article exploring why this might be the case.
Differentiated vs commoditised production
They argue that Germany has focused on producing high-value, differentiated products that require highly skilled employees. This demand has led to significant investment in technical education, which creates the labour supply for high-value manufacturing. In contrast, America has focused its attention on high growth industries and has let its manufacturing base erode. In general, American companies produce commoditised components and face shrinking margins as they must compete on price with far east competitors. These firms can only afford minimum wage workers, so there is insufficient demand to create the required ecosystem for high-value manufacturing.
Automation's success depends on skills
When German firms bring in automation, labour saving is a consideration, but they are more focused on growing output and creating a safe environment free of monotonous tasks. Their employees adapt to the systems and are grateful to focus on higher valued tasks. The efficiency improvements lead to a more competitive company with a more attractive recruitment pitch.
When US companies bring in robots, they do it to cut costs, and their staff do not have the training to adapt to new technologies. The robots are not as productive, and jobs are lost. Resulting in worse outcomes for the employees, company and country.
This article is heavily biased towards automation but makes a strong case that in a globalised world, manufacturing firms face a choice between competing on cost or quality. To keep up, they need to invest in both technology and education.
$50M for early-stage robotics - Fady Saad, a co-founder of MassRobotics, has launched Cybernetix Ventures, an independent venture capital firm investing in early-stage robotics, automation and AI technology companies.
Robot artists are on their way - The internet has been amazed by DALL-E's ability to conjure art from simple descriptions. It feels like magic but check out this interesting thread on its limitations.
Gundam robots, for real - West Japan Rail Company is using giant VR controlled robots to fix remote powerlines... and of course, they look like anime characters.
At first glance, The Garage doesn't seem like a robotics company - they create product videos so intricate and complex they look computer-generated.
In their adverts, sneakers levitate, fruit explodes and table clothes fly. Behind this mind-bending camera work is one of the most creative implementations of robotics out there.
They use the precision, speed and repeatability of mechanical systems to create shots that a human could never achieve.
When people suggest that automation is all about cost-cutting, the Garage is one of my favourite examples to demonstrate otherwise.
Check out the BTS video of their workshop. It features a load of cool tech - 7 axis robots, custom LED cooling systems, pneumatic pulleys and more.
Photo of the week
This week the Remix Robotics team was at the MTC sponsoring their Robotics and Automation Conference. Our favourite stand was from the Faraday Institute - they're working on an automated process for disassembling EV batteries. Watch this space as we're working on something similar...