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The Trend Toward Distribution Center Floor Robotics Has Increased The Need For Workers Skilled In Robotics Maintenance, But Workers Trained In Such Maintenance Are In Short Supply.

Workers Skilled In Robotics Maintenance

Skilled Robotic Personnel Shortage

   In the early days, simple tasks were automated and machines were used to carry them out. Today, because of further technological advances in engineering and major progress made in programming, robots can do almost any task previously reserved for humans. The effects of automation is obvious throughout the economy as its use grows every day.  Their low prices and their effectiveness to operate all day without interruption has made it cost-competitive with human workers. “Any job that is routine or monotonous runs the risk of being automated away,” Yisong Yue, an assistant professor at the California Institute of Technology, told Business Insider. These technologies soon will be used in every corner of the world due to their capability and favorable prices. With robots, we are sure that they can go even to the most unknown places and endure hostile and unfavorable places unlike human beings. They will also perform tasks faster, more efficiently and more accurately than them, produce products and move without human interference. Nevertheless, they can work tirelessly without sleep and carry out repetitive and time-consuming tasks that human beings find tiring.  

          Despite there being these good results of robotic use, there exists a problem because machines require power supply, maintenance and repair, among others. What is going to happen if during a manufacturing or any process in production machine fails to operate correctly as expected? What a loss when the robot cannot work anymore and there is no one to determine the problem and be able to fix it so that production continues. It is evident that robotics engineers and other personnel with skill to maintain these robots are required to ensure reliability and proper operation of these technologies. Problem is, these required maintenance skilled personnel are not easily found in the job markets today. Not many institutions offer quality skills to service these machines.

          Errors and failures in a robot, whether perceived, unexpected and actual failures cannot be avoided, but they can sure be minimized and corrected with the use of the right skills. Systems thinking, programming mindset, active learning, mathematics, good communication, technology design, complex problem solving, persistence and judgement and decision making are some of the skills required for proper functioning of a robot. These kinds of personnel can be able to deal with both physical failures and human failures. Steinbauer (2013) collected information regarding failures that occurred to teams in RoboCup competitions, and classified them into four categories: Interaction (problems that arise from uncertainties in the interaction with the environment, other agents, and humans), algorithms (problems in methods and algorithms), software (design and implementation faults of software systems), and hardware (physical faults of the robotic equipment. These are failures that will not be corrected without proper skills. With the skills above, one will be able to identify the problem even before it rises and make a decision to correct it before it leads to damages. One can calculate the risks involved, and understand how the robot is thinking. Explaining to others what is happening and evaluating problems from different angles too is vital. Therefore, one will be able to get the machine working no matter what it is. When a system or a machine fails, a lot of things can go wrong. whether a technical, mechanical or communication error occurs, the result will either be wrong findings, low quality production or failure for anything to be produced at all. Either way, this will lead to delayed distribution and lack of customer’s trust. Reduced demand for your products and services and not forgetting, increased cost of making right everything that went wrong. Wastage of materials will surely be one other consequence of a failure in a robot. Robots are good at following instructions, therefore if fed a wrong input by non-qualified personnel, then the results will definitely be wrong.

          In conclusion, I believe there are some strategies we can use to avoid these problems related to lack of skills to maintain the robots. First of all, the robots should be made less complex to enable operation by any user and develop interactions that enable untrained users to easily identify and solve failures, thus enabling any worker to interact with it. Use of visual indicators and secondary screens like smartphones to indicate any robotic errors should also be imposed in order to inform users about whether the robot is safe to be around and whether it is working properly. Also, audio and speech should be used for the robot to be able to ask for help or to communicate any detected failures. Other than that, a robot should produce verbal and non-verbal communications so as to respond to an error and respond to commands with questions and steps to follow for certainty before acting. With such kind of strategies to follow, there will be less errors made. A robot will also not require special trained personnel to operate and maintain, since any user can interact with the robot well, and be able to identify a problem early enough.

References

Brooks D. J. (2017). A Human-Centric Approach to Autonomous Robot Failures, Ph.D. dissertation, Department of Computer Science, University; Lowell, MA.

M Decker, M Fischer, (2017). Robotics and Autonomous Systems.

Jack Karsten,Darrel M. West,(2015). How Robots, Artificial Intelligence and Machine will affect employment and public policy.

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