Robots Welcome to Take Over, as Pandemic Accelerates Automation
Industries which require employees to be physically present in the premises and hence can’t implement an effective Work From Home policy may see an accelerated adoption of automation. Replacing a human being, a natural host for the virus, with a robot provides a simplistic solution to breaking the chain. Businesses might find the robot, which neither gets infected nor transmits (at least not host the virus), a natural replacement for workers involved in repetitive tasks. Something that may have eventually happened may just have got a Covid boost.
“The recycling industry was already struggling before the pandemic. Now, an increasing number of cities are suspending recycling services, partly out of fear that workers might contract the coronavirus from one another while sorting through used water bottles, food containers and boxes.
One solution: Let robots do the job.
Since the coronavirus took hold in the United States last month, AMP Robotics has seen a “significant” increase in orders for its robots that use artificial intelligence to sift through recycled material, weeding out trash.
…The grocery industry is leaning more on automation to free up employees to deal with the crush of demand during the pandemic.
Brain Corp, a San Diego company that makes software used in automated floor cleaners, said retailers were using the cleaners 13 percent more than they were just two months ago. The “autonomous floor care robots” are doing about 8,000 hours of daily work “that otherwise would have been done by an essential worker,” the company said.
At supermarkets like Giant Eagle, robots are freeing up employees who previously spent time taking inventory to focus on disinfecting and sanitizing surfaces and processing deliveries to keep shelves stocked.
Retailers insist the robots are augmenting the work of employees, not replacing them. But as the panic buying ebbs and sales decline in the recession that is expected to follow, companies that reassigned workers during the crisis may no longer have a need for them.
The role of a cashier is also changing. For many years, retailers have provided self-checkout kiosks. But those machines often require intervention by workers to help shoppers navigate the often fickle and frustrating technology.”