How Robots & Automation Are Helping to Fight the COVID-19 Pandemic

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As the COVID-19 pandemic overwhelms healthcare systems and devastates economies all over the world, there has never been a greater need for advances in science and technology. As a leading automation systems integrator, we’re following these developments with great interest. Scientists and engineers around the world propose that robots could be an essential support for humans in fighting the virus by performing tasks that would otherwise put human workers at risk, speed up the production of test kits, and other critical supplies through automation. 

MIT roboticist Kate Darling notes that machines helping humans do their jobs has plenty of precedent in this piece published recently on Wired.com. “ATMs allowed banks to expand teller services,” she says. “Bomb disposal robots let soldiers keep more distance between themselves and danger.”

The COVID-19 crisis is not the first time scientists have recognized the potential role robotics could have in combating infectious diseases. According to ScienceRobotics, the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy and the National Science Foundation identified three areas where robotics can make a difference during the 2015 Ebola outbreak: clinical care, logistics, and reconnaissance (monitoring compliance with voluntary quarantines).

Some countries and organizations have already embraced the technology to overcome the massive challenges caused by the pandemic. Here are just a few examples of how automation and robots could be used to fight COVID-19 by reducing the workload of overburdened essential workers and help prevent the spread of the virus.  

⎹ Collecting patient samples and automating lab tests.
⎹ Allow doctors and nurses to treat patients remotely.
⎹ Enable experts all over the world to perform medical tasks and contribute to research without having to travel.
⎹ Using automation to make  COVID-19 testing more efficient. 
⎹ Automate cleaning and food preparation jobs that are currently put humans at risk. 
Disinfect potentially contaminated surfaces in healthcare facilities and public spaces either using UV light that kills bugs or by repurposing agricultural robots and drones to spray disinfectant. 

Click here to see more ways robots are being used to minimize the spread of COVID-19 around the world. 

In addition to fighting the pandemic, robots are being utilized around the world to help keep the economy and infrastructure intact by tackling the many logistical challenges created by the crisis and carrying out crucial deliveries of food and medication without exposing humans while some grocery stores are beginning to use robots to keep shelves stocked

While robotics and automation cannot replace the advanced skills and the quick life-or-death decision making required from health care workers, scientists and engineers around the globe believe that the technology can go a long way to help human workers stay safe and fight the virus. See some additional resources below to learn more about the important role robotics and automation will play in this crisis.

Combating COVID-19—The role of robotics in managing public health and infectious diseases

COVID-19 pandemic prompts more robot usage worldwide

The Covid-19 Pandemic Is a Crisis That Robots Were Built For

This robot could make COVID-19 testing faster and safer 

How Robots Are Helping Grocery Stores During The Coronavirus Outbreak

Robots to the Rescue: How They Can Help During Coronavirus (and Future Pandemics)

How China, the US, and Europe are using robots to replace and help humans fight coronavirus by delivering groceries, sanitizing hospitals, and monitoring patients

Robots And Drones Are Now Used To Fight COVID-19

Pre-Tec

PRE-TEC, a division of WVCO, is a leading automation systems integrator specializing in turn-key material handling solutions. For more than thirty years, we have been building Flexible Automated Solutions designed around our customer’s specific production needs. The PRE-TEC engineers can provide more information about our services and custom robotic technologies. Contact us today for an engineering review of your needs.

How Is Automation and Robotics Good for the American Workforce?

PRE-TEC Robotics Willamette Valley Company

“The overwhelming conclusion of industry experts is that automation doesn’t spell the end of gainful employment for humans, but rather, the improvement of employment opportunities.”

– From How Robotic Automation is Changing the Job Market

As industrial automation technology continues to develop and evolve, our PRE-TEC team is here to help businesses all over the country prepare for the future by developing innovative custom manufacturing solutions to help businesses grow. Since the 1990s, WVCO’s PRE-TEC division has been at the forefront of innovative manufacturing solutions and the development of precision equipment. Our team has prepared hundreds of robotic systems through the decades that have led to measurable improvements for the company’s overall “bottom line”.

It is not difficult to understand how the use of industrial robots is a cost-effective way to produce higher quality products and increase productivity, but if you look deeper, you will see the benefits to human workers as well. In fact, there are a number of ways the evolution of robotics are improving conditions and creating new opportunities for workers. However, the use of robotics is not without controversy.

The Fear of Automation & Robotics
There is an unfortunate perception that robots will eliminate the need for the human workforce in the near future. Job security is always a primary concern among manufacturing workers and the projected increase in automation is causing anxiety among the American workforce. It is understandable why many employees and labor unions can perceive automation as a threat to their well-being and job security.

How Does Automation Benefit Workers?
In this post, we’d like to counter those fears and make the point that automation does not necessarily equal job loss. In fact, it’s quite the contrary- the evidence is showing that automation is actually improving prospects for American workers. A wide range of industry experts agree that automation will lead to better working conditions, higher pay and job growth.

1) Safer Working Conditions
By taking on the necessary manufacturing tasks that can be repetitive and cumbersome for workers, automation creates a safer work environment and reduces the risk of serious and sometimes fatal on-the-job accidents. Eliminating these tasks in a fast-paced production line reduces stress, mental fatigue, and injuries that can result from lifting and moving large objects.

2) More Satisfaction
Business experts predict that improving tasks like parts retrieval or transferring materials within a facility will allow workers to redirect their skills to better uses. If machines can perform tasks that are repetitive or even dangerous for employees to perform, workers have more opportunities focus their efforts on more engaging job functions that improve quality and customer service like Q.C. checks, special orders, machine operation, maintenance, repair, and line supervision.

3) Higher Pay
Historically, supply and demand drive wage increases and businesses can only pay workers more if they become more productive. Automation enables human workers to be more efficient and focus on more valuable tasks that justify a higher wage. Manufacturing job titles and tasks are changing and employers are adding higher paying job opportunities like system operators, supervisors, programmers, and technicians to keep operating systems in top condition and running efficiently.

4) More jobs
In most cases, utilizing automation for materials handling results in higher output for a lower cost. As a company grows, so will the need for more jobs in that industry. As an example, the Wall Street Journal cites the growth of the banking industry after automated tellers were introduced in the 1970s. After ATMs were introduced, more branches were opened which resulted in more positions and job openings to be filled for decades.

Like computers, automation does not mean job elimination. Despite their advanced capabilities, automated robotic systems do not eliminate the need for a human workforce. According to the McKinsey Global Institute, more than 90% of jobs will not be able to be fully automated. Robotics and automation will improve production, employee safety, and satisfaction, which results in a lower turnover. Adapting to the “age of robotics” is a necessary change businesses will need to make in order to stay competitive and to help maximize their worker’s potential.