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posted by martyb on Wednesday January 19, @07:49PM   Printer-friendly
from the it-has-begun dept.

Now You Can Rent a Robot Worker:

Polar Manufacturing has been making ​metal ​hinges, locks, and brackets ​in south Chicago for more than 100 years. Some of the company's metal presses—hulking great machines that loom over a worker—date from the 1950s. Last year, to meet rising demand amid a shortage of workers, Polar hired its first robot employee.

The robot arm performs a simple, repetitive job: lifting a piece of metal into a press, which then bends the metal into a new shape. And like a person, the robot worker gets paid for the hours it works.

​Jose Figueroa​, who manages Polar's production line, says the robot, which is leased from a company called Formic, costs the equivalent of $8 per hour, compared with a minimum wage of $15 per hour for a human employee. Deploying the robot allowed a human worker to do different work, increasing output, Figueroa says.

"Smaller companies sometimes suffer because they can't spend the capital to invest in new technology," Figueroa says. "We're just struggling to get by with the minimum wage increase."


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  • (Score: 2) by SomeGuy on Wednesday January 19, @08:37PM (5 children)

    by SomeGuy (5632) on Wednesday January 19, @08:37PM (#1213932)

    $8 sounds nice, especially for something one might need only briefly. But what ARE the upfront costs for something like this, if needed for a permanent basis?

    How does this thing handle unexpected situations? Given that a human was doing the job, and not a machine in the first place, it stands to reason some part of the job involved things only a human could manage.

    Like any "as a service" this opens up the possibility for the company leasing these things to nickel-and-dime someone to death. Need to add a skill? $$$$ Need to adapt to even very slightly different changes? $$$$. Use it more than a contract states? $$$$ "Fix" it every time there is a "problem"? $$$$.

    You know, once they figure out how to make these things walk properly, we will finally have the robots promised in early science fiction stories - with with all the "as a service" badness of modern day enterprise shit.

    Kill me.

    "bdbdbdbdbd... the function KILL ME will cost extra $$$$, Buck. Or you can listen to some advertisements first..."

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  • (Score: 2) by DrkShadow on Wednesday January 19, @08:48PM

    by DrkShadow (1404) on Wednesday January 19, @08:48PM (#1213935)

    $8 sounds nice, especially for something one might need only briefly. But what ARE the upfront costs for something like this, if needed for a permanent basis?

    I'm wondering if that calculates in the unemployment insurance, medical insurance, paid vacation, payroll taxes, etc. that are "hidden" employee costs -- what's left is as if they're paying the machine $8/hr (but really a human at minimum wage costs the company $36/hr and the robot costs $28/hr)

    How does this thing handle unexpected situations? Given that a human was doing the job, and not a machine in the first place, it stands to reason some part of the job involved things only a human could manage.

    That's what the single human-overseer is for. This is a sheetmetal press, right? So part goes in, robot pushes a button, mechanical machine does its work, machine pulls part out. What's to go wrong? Figure out how to make that part not go wrong. Like optimizing efficiency in an engine -- if a part fails, design that part to not fail. Over time, the process will be improved such that there are no un-handled / unexpected scenarios. Of course it will be an issue at first.

    Like any "as a service" [...] Need to add a skill? $$$$. Need to adapt to even very slightly different changes? $$$$.

    Only if you change the process. If you're doing something for 50+ years, you're probably not doing that much.

    Use it more than a contract states? $$$$

    See above. They're paying hourly(?), so if it works overtime, it works overtime. Extra orders leading to increased production -- what a wonderful problem to have! (And you don't have to find another human!)

    "Fix" it every time there is a "problem"? $$$$.

    Note the provider, break-fix is on the provider. You're only billed for the time the robot is running.

  • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday January 19, @08:50PM (1 child)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday January 19, @08:50PM (#1213937)

    Kill me.

    Yes, that is the plan. Replace workers with robots, lower fertility rates, start a few pandemics and wars, etc.

    • (Score: 2) by DannyB on Thursday January 20, @03:55PM

      by DannyB (5839) Subscriber Badge on Thursday January 20, @03:55PM (#1214191) Journal

      Robots don't want to kill all humans. They just want to take our jobs.

      --
      I had some thoughts about lasers, but they were incoherent.
  • (Score: 2) by PinkyGigglebrain on Wednesday January 19, @09:00PM (1 child)

    by PinkyGigglebrain (4458) on Wednesday January 19, @09:00PM (#1213944)

    From the article

    The fact that Polar didn’t need to pay $100,000 upfront to buy the robot, and then spend more money to get it programmed, was crucial. ...

    Sounds like the upfront costs are non existent beyond the initial installation of the hardware and associated safety equipment.

    Factor in the extra costs of a Human like unemployment and health insurance payments the company has to make using a bot makes a lot of sense for the erpetative and potentially dangerous tasks on a production floor. Just until now its usually been to costly to install a bot.

    --
    "Beware those who would deny you Knowledge, For in their hearts they dream themselves your Master."
    • (Score: 2) by DrkShadow on Wednesday January 19, @10:07PM

      by DrkShadow (1404) on Wednesday January 19, @10:07PM (#1213960)

      Whoops, one follow-up to that:

      It's probably like an employee, where it's hard to fire them. You likely commit to minimums per time period, and you likely commit to minimum time periods. It doesn't make sense for Formic to give you a robot that you leave sitting in the corner, nor for them to ship you a robot that you're only going to use for a week. (You'd likely pay exceptionally for that -- and it might still be less than bringing on an employee, but not less than hiring a temp agency for temporary labor.)