Robots A Welcome Addition To The Workforce

Robo co-workers plug industry-wide skills gaps, boost efficiency, automate mundane work, and don't get involved in office politics, finds Epicor study.

With employers struggling to find people with the skills they need, even for entry-level jobs¹, industrial workers are increasingly seeing the benefits of working with robots, rather than humans, to improve productivity and relieve the pressures they are under. This is one of the findings of the latest research² from Epicor Software Corporation, a global provider of industry-specific enterprise software to promote business growth.

Epicor Robot research study
(PRNewsfoto/Epicor Software Corporation)

Staff are aware of the many benefits of working alongside robots, according to the research, which questioned around 2,500 business respondents in 14 countries. Over half (54%) say robots automate repetitive or mundane work that they would otherwise have to do themselves, and 34 percent agree that robots are more efficient than humans in the workplace.

It’s not just their efficiency that makes robots attractive co-workers: a quarter (27%) cited the fact that robots do not get involved in office politics as a benefit of working with machines.

To find that humans are happy to work alongside robots is good news for employers that want to use cutting-edge technology, to plug a growing skills gap on their factory floors. The same research found that the industrial workforce is getting older, and that only a quarter (23%) of businesses are currently able to attract recruits with the right knowledge. The use of robots can introduce efficiencies where human resource is low, and they can also encourage young talent into industry—with 33 percent of millennials wanting to work at the cutting edge of new developments.³

Other research backs up the discovery that rather than being worried about job losses, workers are actually ready and willing to embrace robot coworkers. For example, the OECD has found that only about one in 10 jobs are actually at high risk from automation, and Gallup’s latest study shows that only a quarter (23%) of workers are worried about losing their jobs to artificial intelligence (AI).

Many employees are aware of the benefits of automation, because they already have first-hand experience of robot workmates. A third (31%) say AI, robots, and highly automated machinery, are now a common feature of their day-to-day work, and only 32 percent say they are not part of their workforce at all.

Those that work in finance, and those that work in the Asia-Pacific (APAC) region may be more open to working with robot co-workers than anyone else—47 percent of respondents in APAC agree robots are more efficient than humans (compared to 29% in Europe and Middle East) and 33 percent of those who work in finance agree robots can take stressful tasks away from humans (compared to 23% in IT and 20% of CEOs).

Making The Most Of Robots

In order to make the most of the latest innovations in workplace robotics and AI, businesses need to have the right infrastructure in place—one that fits their business and industry. Cloud-based enterprise resource planning (ERP) solutions like Epicor ERP can be crucial to coordinating robot workflows and sharing data between machines and humans across multiple digital platforms. Indeed, around a fifth (19%) of businesses questioned in the Epicor study said they rely on a single core business system to manage everything.

“The study shows us that the use of robots is a very real, but also very welcome way of solving an otherwise worrying industry-wide knowledge and skills gap,” said Terri Hiskey, Epicor’s vice president, product marketing, manufacturing. “With employers struggling to find candidates with the right skills or knowledge for entry-level roles, and with employees struggling to keep up with the pressures of business growth, automating aspects of the workforce offers a new way of building efficiencies into the supply chain, and enabling digital transformation. However, businesses need the right infrastructure at their heart if they are to manage data flows effectively and to make the most of robotics and AI. This is where ERP and the cloud come into their own.

“Far from workers worrying about their jobs being taken by robots, our study shows that employees are actually very happy to work alongside machines,” concluded Hiskey. “With all the advantages of robots not getting involved in office politics too, we can expect to see more of this in the future!”

¹ Almost 40 percent of American employers say they cannot find people with the skills they need, even for entry-level jobs.
² The research was conducted by Morar Consulting on behalf of Epicor in December 2017. The research questioned 2,450 business decision makers and employees in businesses in 14 countries across the globe, about their growth performance in the last 12 months.
³ See press release from Epicor for more information