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The rise of robots in the industry will make the factories go home

Automotive News

The use of robots to replace workers, a process that gains strength in this fourth industrial revolution, will mean that many factories that moved to developing countries in search of cheaper labor end up returning to the place where the company is based. matrix.

“It is very likely that we will live a process where a good part of what has been outsourced by developed countries to developing countries to reduce production costs will revert”, assured Efe the professor of Computer Science and Intelligence Artificial Senén Barro, who emphasizes that this change of trend has already begun, but will be increasingly “more intense”.

“Replicating robots is much cheaper, without a doubt, than training people and paying them,” adds Barro, former director of the University of Santiago de Compostela.

Barro illustrates this statement with one piece of information: the “sophisticated” Baxter robot, developed by the company Rethink Robotics, which is able to manipulate with its arms food in a chain of processed or assemble devices, has a cost of operation in plant of 4 dollars / hour and down.

“It is also a device that can work 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, that has no ups and downs, that manipulates both hands independently, not like humans, making it very difficult to compete”, Explain.

With him coincides the director of Strategy of Ericsson Spain, Iván Rejón, for whom also “it will make more sense to bring back manufacturing near the markets where it is consumed, because the advantage of the labor cost no longer makes sense”.

New consumption habits contribute to this process, with a greater need for more personalized products and shorter delivery times, which means that “having a very cheap factory in the Far East but then taking the products three weeks to reach Europe it starts to be a handicap, “says Vodafone Spain’s IoT director, Daniel Barallat.

“The result is that companies, in order to respond quickly to these new demand habits, will have to consider moving part of their production centers to be closer to their final consumer,” says the head of Industry 4.0 at Accenture , Carlos Gallego.

This process of returning home from the factories is something that “is seen closely in the US, is beginning to be seen in Spain and is seen with concern in markets that have made low labor costs the way to differentiate and be competitive, as is the case of China, “says Rejon.

“That of producing cheaper because we have lower wage costs is also going to end soon, because you will not be competitive at all,” says Barro, who stresses that, if China “continued with a policy of competing solely and exclusively to produce cheap, it would be condemned sooner rather than later to be a country without capacity for development “.

But it is not doing it, but, on the contrary, it is allocating “huge” investments to technologies, R & D and education.

China, adds Rejon, sees “with great interest” the concepts of “intelligent industry” because he knows that “either they move quickly or they can be overtaken by events”.

And although companies, in Barro’s opinion, “are careful not to show off their automation bets”, because of the negative connotations of replacing labor with machines, paradigmatic cases of this new trend can be cited already.

Tesla manufactures in the USA and Adidas has opted to open a factory in Germany, instead of taking it to China, for one of its products with higher added value, “because it comes more to mind having it” close to the consumer, explains the person responsible for coordinating the Industry 4.0 strategy at Tecnalia technology center, Mikel Sánchez.

Another example would be, according to Rebecca Marciel, who is currently leading Gartner’s digital consultancy in Spain and Portugal, the telephone assistance services, which were moved to cheaper labor markets and which, now that so much human intervention is not needed, could be also return to the countries of origin of the company.

The return home of factories has, in addition to cost savings, other advantages, such as making copies difficult, not depending on the circumstances of those other countries, helping to create qualified employment and driving innovation that can be lost due to the productive process outside.

In addition, as pointed out by the expert in Law and Digital Strategy Borja Adsuara, which is manufactured where consumed will end up being seen as a prestigious seal, “a point for publicity”.

EL DIARIO – EFE – Madrid – 01/21/2018 (Translation Soft)

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