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Will Robots Replace Service Industry Workers?


While robots in the service industry have already been a practice long since the industrial revolution, the employment of these intelligent robots and the use of artificial intelligence in replacement of traditional human labor to perform tasks is substantially increasing.

Such change in the labor market became further evident and rampant during the COVID-19 pandemic when employers saw the value of employing robots for safety, economic, and logistical reasons. Seeing its benefits and experiencing increased productivity, the employment of robots and utilizing AI technology in the workplace can be expected in the foreseeable future.

In fact, the Senior Vice President of Cloud and Data Platform at IBM, Rob Thomas, says that the new normal or the pandemic accelerated “what was going to happen anyway”.

With such reality, the question of whether these robots will replace service industry workers lurk in the minds of many, especially blue-collar workers. If anything, the employment of robots in the service industry and the workplace can bring more value to human employees and great news to a business when looked at as a whole and with the right mindset.

How is Robotics Affecting the Service Sector?

Will Robots Replace Service Industry Workers?

Compared to other industries, the service sector is where you can arguably see the most robots employed as workers. Factors such as labor shortage and alleviating humans from menial, repetitive, and physically taxing tasks to focus on more value-adding work are just some of the reasons why service robots are becoming prevalent in the field.

As it becomes more common to see robots replace humans in the service industry, how can they affect the sector? Generally, there are three ways in which employing a robot and using robotic technology can affect the service sector as a whole.

Robotic Industrial Revolution

With varying skills, features, and advanced robotics technologies, a robot can be placed in numerous industries in the service sector.

A robot can be employed in retail, healthcare, hospitality, domestic, and logistics. Unlike a human worker, a robot will only need to undergo one quick “training” program that will allow it to learn all the ins and outs of the job and start working the next day.

If companies decide to create new processes, then a robot will simply need to be re-programmed to learn its new tasks and be equipped with necessary new tools. This cuts down on the employers’ time spent on training and orienting new human hires.

In relation to the time spent on orientation, there are service robots hired to also give out training seminars to new human workers and employees. This also alleviates HR human employees from these jobs so they may focus on other tasks that require more of their time.

Automation brought about robots and machines have also transformed many industries, especially the automotive industry and long-haul trucking. According to a 2020 Cornell University Study, robot machines, their AI technology, and automation can ultimately replace up to 400,000 jobs in the trucking industry. A good example of this is how robots are revolutionizing the tire-changing process through the use of automation. 

Researchers found that there is an increased demand for robots and their automation process. White Castle, an American hamburger restaurant chain, for example, has started using Flippy robots at one-third of their locations simply to flip burgers.

With the ability for automation to make jobs easier, especially tasks that are repetitive and physically taxing, robots and machines with such capabilities can revolutionize assembly lines in companies and eliminate millions of hours spent by humans in manufacturing.

Productivity Effects

Robots and their skills in automation and manufacturing can provide organizational efficiency in any business. When used and maximized right, these robotic machines along with their technologies can increase productivity in the workplace and workflow of things.

A robot can free up human workers from repetitive jobs that in the long run can be strenuous and cause burnout. Such cases can lead to human workers quitting their jobs, which eventually costs businesses more as they would have to look for replacements and train them. This also cuts down on the productivity levels of a business and can eventually lower morale among workers. Such an instance happened during the COVID-19 pandemic where a great resignation happened amongst human workers.

With the skills and technology of robots, they are also able to perform a job with higher accuracy and quality. As a robot is created to be productive and avoid mistakes, a company that hires such a smart machine can be assured that productivity and quality of work can increase even in a shorter amount of time.

Unlike humans, robots do not need a day off. Unless they need to be reprogrammed or repaired, robots can work at a constant speed with no breaks or leaves — added pay is not needed. A company can continue to run to a certain degree even while all workers are on break as these robots will keep working.

Creation of New Jobs

As robots alleviate humans from working on menial and monotonous jobs that can be taxing, humans can focus on new jobs that require more critical thinking on their end. Although some may fear displacement because of robots ‘taking over’ their jobs, this paves a path for employers and businesses to create jobs and new roles for human employees that can overall help in the productivity and growth of the company’s future.

When monotonous jobs disappear from the hands of human employees, they can focus on more value-adding tasks that will allow them an opportunity to show their worth and value to the business. It’s also a good way for companies to show how innovative they can be in terms of expansion.

Researchers state that robots can open more roles and opportunities for career professionals. A report on ‘Future of Jobs Report 2020’ by the World Economic Forum has indicated the top 20 roles in increasing and decreasing demand (between humans and machines) across industries. In the report, they saw that around 97 million new roles will emerge thanks to robots.

Will Robots Replace Human Workers?

Will Robots Replace Service Industry Workers?

Generally speaking, robots will not be able to replace human employees entirely. Certain jobs are always better to include a human touch. Rather than using the term ‘replace’, robots can be seen more as assistants to humans when it comes to the workplace.

Robots will not place people out of a job but rather fill ones that humans have outgrown. A human employee can then focus on a job that requires more thinking and human intelligence. A job in education for example is still better suited for humans to a certain degree.

Is Artificial Intelligence Going to Replace Human Services?

Will Robots Replace Service Industry Workers?

While using AI in a business is advantageous, the fear of it replacing human services is felt by many. However, AI ultimately cannot replace people and their talent.

AI should be seen as a support or assistance to humans in performing certain tasks. It can only answer and perform to a certain point wherein its technology allows it to. AI is a tool that will not be able to innovate or create to the extent humans, like customer service representatives, can.

Although the technology and capabilities of AI are certainly impressive and advanced, it still has limitations when it comes to innovating new ideas and producing empathy.

What Percentage of Jobs Will Be Replaced by Robots?

Will Robots Replace Service Industry Workers?

At first glance, most would think that it is workers lacking college degrees who will be impacted more in terms of robots getting employed in the work field. Most likely, an employee who lacks the formal education and a college degree will be affected and can find it more difficult to land a job because robots can automate and fast-track manufacturing. 

However, the AI report notes that AI can impact varying sectors; 46% of tasks in administrative, 44% in legal professions, 6% in construction, and 4% in maintenance. One can presume that robots and AI will not take away jobs, but rather use their capabilities to complement the way people already work.

For this reason, high-repetitive tasks will be assigned to robots. But as shifts in the industry have long been underway, the labor statistics on these are not as high as one would assume. The change in the system will only call for various sectors to boom and keep up with the automated upgrades.

Final Note

Will Robots Replace Service Industry Workers?

The thought that robots will be replacing servicing industry workers and people in the work field is one plenty have. With such a disruption in the workflow, it is understandable to fear displacement and current employees worry that a wage decline will happen. However, we should see robots as assistants and supplements to our jobs.

Ultimately, robots are designed to be tools that can boost our productivity and daily lives. This includes how we work in the field. We can adapt to this change by taking online courses on the internet or reading more articles on how we can use robotics to our advantage in the work field.

Sota Takahashi

Sota Takahashi is a Japanese-born electrical engineer. At the age of 18, he moved to Seattle and completed his Electrical Engineering degree at the University of Washington, Seattle. Being a fan of all things tech, he channels his geeky side through this website, and with his wife Linda, shares knowledge about robot pets and how they can be lifelong and advantageous companions for both children and the elderly.

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