It's no secret that U.S. manufacturers face constant increases in labor costs, which are already up 0.6 percent since the start of this year. The biggest contributors to that uptick are wages and benefits, but lost time due to illness, injury, or mistakes that throw a job off schedule also plays a part.
One answer to keeping labor costs at bay has been a trend toward automation — but not without hesitation. Especially among welders, fears about job losses and complicated technology have left them reluctant to adopt robotics. And for some businesses – shipyards and offshore industries, for example – human welders will take precedence over machines for the foreseeable future.
Still, recent reports estimate that workplace automation could cut labor costs by up to 22 percent in the United States by the year 2025. To remain competitive in the manufacturing marketplace — especially in the face of a shortage of skilled welders in the U.S. — there’s a strong argument to be made for adding some robotic welders to your workforce.
In the automotive industry, welding robots are seen as the key to future growth. As cars get more advanced and lightweight, robotic welds can deliver the precision necessary to meet industry standards for rattling, safety, and efficiency. What’s more, a recent report revealed that robots could operate at around $8 per hour once the initial capital investment cost was recouped, while human workers cost an average of $25 per hour.
The demand for automation is also growing in structural welding as the global structural-steel industry market grows to a projected $140 billion by 2025. Because they avoid over-welding and can control procedures, robots make it easier to predict actual costs on large builds. Robots also perform precise, automatic positioning, which reduces weld time and materials. Precision and low waste become particularly important as talk about tariffs and trade wars make forecasting the price of steel materials difficult.
Everyone Can Benefit
Smaller shops can get in on the automation trend too, and may in some cases be even better positioned to try new technologies and processes than their larger counterparts. Especially for businesses that find themselves having to turn down work, robots can fill in those workforce gaps, helping bring in new clients, and even providing manual welders with an entirely new skill set. Advances in technology and user interfaces have made it easier for workers to not only handle the weld, but also to learn to operate the robots. And that’s a smart investment for both the business and its employees.