Now, a nascent trend of offering robots as a service—similar to the subscription models offered by software makers, wherein customers pay monthly or annual use fees rather than purchasing the products—is opening opportunities to even small companies. That financial model is what led Thomson to embrace automation. The company has robots on 27 of its 89 molding machines and plans to add more. It can’t afford to purchase the robots, which can cost $125,000 each, says Chief Executive Officer Steve Dyer. Instead, Thomson pays for the installed machines by the hour, at a cost that’s less than hiring a human employee—if one could be found, he says. “We just don’t have the margins to generate the kind of capital necessary to go out and make these broad, sweeping investments,” he says. “I’m paying $10 to $12 an hour for a robot that is replacing a position that I was paying $15 to $18 plus fringe benefits.”
Robotics providers, including Formic, Robex, and Rios, are designing and installing the equipment, providing maintenance, and charging customers a flat fee that competes and usually beats hourly worker wages.
Robots are also moving into agriculture as vision and machine learning improve.
Robots will bring manufacturing back to America. A robot workforce should also make human unemployment less volatile because a robot workforce can be increased or shrunk quickly and isn’t worried about nominal wage stickiness.
USA is lagging Japan, Germany & S Korea.
Just one question: What will be done with all the surplus humans?