Home Money Here’s why robots taking jobs in Ohio isn’t a bad thing

Here’s why robots taking jobs in Ohio isn’t a bad thing

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Car production robots at a BMW factory in Germany. Photo via Wikimedia Commons.

Both Toledo and Youngstown are hubs for industrial robots, and while some might worry robots will take human jobs, there might not be much to fear. 

Robots are shaping and expanding Ohio’s economy by replacing humans in the automotive workforce. But the shift from human to robot labor is ultimately good for the state, Distinguished Professor of Economics Emeritus Richard Vedder said.

A Brookings Institute Study shows that in Toledo, there are nine robots for every 1000 people, and in Youngstown, there are 4.5 robots for every 1000 people. These statistics put Toledo at number one and Youngstown at number six for industrial robot exposure of the largest 100 metropolitan cities.

The integration of robotics in the workforce is “a very good thing,” Vedder said.

“They aid in the production of goods and services, they lower the cost of production, they make Ohio more competitive, and in the long run, believe it or not, they don’t cost jobs,” Vedder said.

KUKA is a large manufacturer of industrial robots that has a facility in Toledo. They are responsible for building all of the body-in-white Jeep Wranglers in the world, producing one vehicle body every 77 seconds. That’s a total of 828 vehicle bodies produced in a day.

This high-speed system would not be possible without the use of robots and other technological devices in the workforce. KUKA’s Toledo plant has 259 working robots along with 60,000 other technological devices that assist in the car-making process.

KUKA’s robots are made for gentle assembly, extreme temperatures, precision, large reaches and agility that humans are unable to achieve. They are used for material handling, welding and roller hemming. And while some of these robots are human-operated, many say the robots are replacing laborious jobs that are typically filled by lower middle-class people.

The controversy around whether the advancement of robots is positive for Ohio’s economy might have been reflected in the presidential election. According to the Brookings Institute Study, in the states where Trump won, robot incidence was two times higher than in states that voted for Hillary Clinton.

States that voted red had an average of 2.5 robots per 1000 workers, whereas states that went blue had 1.1 robots per 1000 workers on average.

“(Robots) actually, probably, save jobs, because if we don’t use the most modern technology, we’ll find ourselves falling behind other competitors in others states or countries,” Vedder said.  

To where the jobs are moving, Vedder is unsure. He does know, however, that the fear of robots taking over the workforce is not new. When jobs have been filled by new technology in the past, our economy has adjusted, he said.

“We’re finding workers going more and more into service industries, into communications,” Vedder said.

“Into other fields. Leisure industries, education, healthcare. Other areas that have had expanding employment needs over the years.”

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