Shanghai, China – As labor wages steadily increase, Chinese tech companies look to cut costs by trading human employees for highly efficient machines that can do the same work in less time.
Shanghai’s Cambridge Industries Group is producing a fleet of robots to do factory worked previously done by hand. CIG’s CEO Gerald Wong plans to replace up to two-thirds of its 3,000 workers with machines over the next year and strives to have the entire factor automated within a few more years, creating what he calls a “dark factory,” completely devoid of human labor.
Still in the preliminary testing phase, CIG’s robot arm project is proving to be a challenge as many tasks require extreme dexterity, flexibility, and common sense that can currently only be provided by an attentive human worker. For instance, a task requiring the attachment of a flexible wire to a circuit board is not easily automated. Wong explains that “It’s always curled differently,” so right now a team of factory workers is still required to make the proper connections.
When it comes to the manufacturing of circuit boards, high volume production can be done through bulk wave soldering with machines, but skilled technicians are often required to handle very tiny parts by hand under a microscope. Wong’s company is in the process of testing a robot that can do the soldering work more quickly and reliably than a person.
The majority of the world’s manufacturing comes out of China, but in order to maintain that status in the world market, the country will need to adopt more sophisticated models of production in the near future. In order to do this, China plans to adopt robot workers by the millions, consequently putting millions of human factory workers out of jobs.
This shift in workforce supply and demand will not affect China exclusively. Even here in Maryland, workers of all kinds will likely be impacted. However, some argue that while robots will be taking some human jobs, they will also end up creating others in sectors that don’t even exist yet. Only time will tell what sort of effect new technology will have on our daily lives.