Due to the numerous articles in magazines and newspapers, there are real fears individuals in the welding industry may lose their jobs to automation.
So will welding be automated? Welding is likely to experience at least some level of automation in the next five to ten years, due to the increasingly advanced technology available, the cost savings of automation, and the potential improved efficiency and accuracy gained.
But the answer isn’t that simple. The premise of these fears has remained the same since the Industrial Revolution began.
This being said, the future may not be as set in stone as many individuals believe. Implementing automation depends on both the job and the diversity. Automation basically means the smaller companies can have as large a footprint as the bigger businesses. Automation increases production. There are several reasons this may not be the end for workers in the welding industry.
The Current Status of Automation
The first reason is the actual costs for manufacturing products requiring welding will substantially decrease. This will provide a higher welding capacity for both the smaller and larger factories. This enables smaller businesses the opportunity to have a more significant impact on the market. Larger companies will see a substantial increase in revenue.
The second reason is automation will change the focus from production to design. The quality of the product will improve, and there will be an increase in the number of small businesses. Although the number of mid-size companies will most likely decrease, the growth in small businesses should offer more jobs as the automation of the future takes full effect.
As I said, the question will welding be automated is not as simple as it sounds. Approximately eighty percent of all manufacturing welding jobs can be replaced by automation. Experienced welders will always be necessary for the remaining twenty percent of welding jobs besides operating the actual robots.
Although automation can eventually lay the bead, skilled welders will have to teach the robots how to perform their duties. Computer programmers will not be enough. Another consideration is the value of human judgment. Robots excel at repetition but not the required variations.
The welding industry has continued to remain profitable despite a decreasing skilled workforce and a weaker economy. There are already companies using robotic automation to fulfill their needs for welding. Non-automotive manufacturers are in the minority. Approximately fourteen percent of all the other industries combined have invested in automation. The number of companies considering this option is consistently increasing.
The areas most likely to embrace automation include end-users, management, and distributors. This is because automation will be their best opportunity to remain current within their industry. Automation is expected to be an essential aspect of the near future. Any welding company falling behind will lose customers.
When Will Welding be Automated?
Although a future consisting of independent welding automation has not yet arrived, there is no doubt the changes have begun. The price of automated robotic welding has started to decrease. This means automation is becoming possible for more than just the large welding corporations. As time continues to pass, automation will offer even more cost-effective machines, new efficiency, and much better trends.
These are the reasons so much optimism regard the future of automation in the welding industry. Despite some of the apparent disadvantages for the workers, the benefits will include more affordable and higher quality products. The production will be more sustainable with fewer middlemen required.
Despite the advances in welding automation, the future of this concept is not here yet. The artificial intelligence to take automated welding to the next level is not currently available. This technology is required for automation to replace humans in production. The artificial intelligence revolution has enabled people to become better at their jobs.
They are producing more efficient lines for every hour they work. Human workers are still needed for programming and overseeing the automated machines. The possibility of automated tools programming themselves is a possibility. This would lower the cost of manufacturing welding products even further.
Replacing Jobs in the Welding Industry with Automation
The success of the overall supply chain will depend on the relationships established between the distributors and the customers. The distributors must ensure they are current with the latest advances in automated welding to succeed. Profits will drop for any distributor who does not stay competitive. The best option for the distributors is to learn the new technology now.
This will enable them to be a trusted resource for the expertise for the growth of their customers. The relationship between the manufacturer and the dealer can remain mutually beneficial. The position of the welders depends on their skill and experience.
Although robotic automation can decrease the cost of manufacturing, experienced professionals will still be necessary. The automated robots will require skilled welders for programming. The welder must understand not only welding but the limitations.
The financial gains and growth of the company will increase the number of jobs. The key benefit of a skilled welder is the versatility. Automated robots cannot decide because they are a product of their programming.
The Implementation and Results of Automation
A pre-engineered system offers the business a quicker return for their investment and easier implementation as opposed to customized cells. The basic system includes the bases. All that is required is installing the system on the assembly line. The most straightforward first step is locating the process most often repeated on the line. A tested training program is the best way to train the robot.
The most essential characteristic of robotics training is a skilled welder taking pride in their work. If the line goes down, support must be available for the robotics trainer. Automated welding cells offer consistent quality and increased production. The average increase in productivity is three to one. The company can see a return on the investment in under two years.
The start of automated welding occurs close to the beginning of the manufacturing line. This will provide the highest quality weld with the least possible splatter. Everyone working the line will benefit because any clean-up or quality issues will be virtually eliminated. This will offer benefits for the end-users, customers, and distributors. The process of automation will not eliminate every concern.
One of the most significant contributors to the profitability of any company is antiquated equipment. There is always more efficient and effective equipment available due to new technology. A good example is a recent improvement in arc data monitoring. The only way to make sure the company remains profitable on a global scale is to stay current with the technological advancements for both automation and welding.
The Expected Future of Automation in the Welding Industry
There are already robots on the market with an operational cost lower than the salaries of the current workers. The prices of these robots are continually dropping. The prediction is by the year 2025, the cost of a welding robot will be below $2 per hour. Since the price of a human welder in the United States is $25 per hour, this savings is staggering.
The cost is still less than for experienced workers from the countries with the lowest incomes. Automation is the most effective for tasks requiring constant repetition as opposed to new tasks. The majority of welding jobs require constantly changing skills. This means individuals with repetitive tasks are most likely to be the first to lose their jobs to automation. The jobs requiring more fluctuation will be safe for a long while.
The cost of enabling robots to perform highly skilled tasks is decreasing. Artificial intelligence can be programmed to perform nearly any job better than a human consistently. The reliability levels necessary to make this possible are just now being reached. This dramatically improves the marketability of automation. An excellent example was the computer winning against the world chess champion during the 1990s.
Nobody gave this too much credibility because chess is essentially math. This is an area in which computers have always excelled. Much more recently, the best Jeopardy players on the globe were beaten by a computer. This showed machines are now advanced enough to answer abstract questions correctly.
Recently, a computer beat the Go champion of the world. This made a particular statement. When using a cognitive perspective, it now appears absolutely nothing a computer cannot do much better than a human. The entire concept of automation will take a drastic turn once robots are being sold on the marketplace to fix nearly anything inside of the home.
A handyman robot has become a distinct possibility for the future. The approaching future will have a dramatic impact on the value of labor. Many experts believe this will hurt the political and economic systems requiring hundreds of years to build. The most straightforward answer to will welding be automated is yes. The only question is how much time will be necessary to develop the required technologies.
The basic concept of the world has started to change. GPS has replaced maps, and the internet is replacing the libraries. The changes during the next ten years are expected to be significant. As for the welding industry, the workers welding repetitive objects such as tube sheets, seams, and nozzles may be concerned about their jobs. Automated robots can already perform these jobs.
The problem is, the cost is too high. Operators are still crucial because computers cannot tell if the welds are going incorrectly. Scrapping expensive alloys is a cost no company wants to undertake. The concerns are expected to increase over the next twenty years. Computers may perform assembly inside towers by then.
One day it may be possible to drop a boom containing a robot. The robot will perform a scan, become orientated and weld. During the next thirty years, any welder not performing an odd job or a repair may have to worry. The same technology that affected the G-code programs of machinists may also affect robotic welding.
Some of the larger companies are already making investments in automation. Although the future has not happened yet, the chances are good there will be disruptions within the welding industry. Which jobs are lost remains to be seen.
What is the future of welding jobs? Work of welders, solderers, brazers, and cutters is predicted to grow 6 percent from 2016 to 2026, about as quick as the average for all professions. The country’s aging infrastructure will need the competence of welders, brazers, cutters, and solderers to assist restore bridges, highways, and buildings.
Will AI replace welders? Not every welding job will be replaced by robotic processes. Welding jobs on dies and tooling, architectural welding, welding repair work and numerous kinds of fabrication will still be carried out by human welders.