Factories in the U.S. and around the world are adding robots to their workforce at a faster pace. That pace is expected to pick up even more over the next decade.
A study from the Boston Consulting Group estimates among the world's 25-biggest export nations, robot use will grow by 10% a year at manufacturing and industrial companies through 2025.
Leading the robot charge is cost. The price to automate factory jobs has dropped considerably. The report notes the cost of owning and operating a spot welder is down nearly $50,000 a year from 2005, and should drop another $30,000 by 2025.
Those numbers are big on the bottom line, meaning a cut in labor costs for companies between 22-33%. Right now, only 10% of factory jobs that can be automated are, and BCG predicts by 2025, that number will grow to 23%. It says companies tend to jump into robotics when a cost savings of 15% is realized versus an employee.
Electronics manufacturing is leading the way. The average cost to operate a robot to do routine tasks is about $4 an hour, compared to a worker at $24 and hour.
Another plus for robots is their ability to work in tough conditions, and new technology and sensors make them better able to adapt to unpredictable environments.
U.S. factories are among the top adopters of robotic technologies, but not as quick as factories in China, Japan, Canada, Russia and the U.K. Companies in South Korea, Thailand, Indonesia and Taiwan are also on the fast track.
In all according to BGC, the latest robotic revolution could lead to a factory workforce that’s several million workers smaller in 2025. Those losses will affect mostly low-skill workers, while higher-skill jobs operating and maintaining the new workforce are expected to increase.