I have always loved technology. When I was young, growing up only a few kilometers from where the Universal Robots headquarters is today, I remember finding a bug in a soccer video game I played, and I tried for months and months to make a better game. Even though it turned out to be much harder than I thought, and I ended up with nothing, it got me into coding, which was a learned skill that followed me for many years ahead.
That passion for technology has never left me. And, just as I have turned the games of my childhood into a career, the robotics and automation industry has been transformed beyond recognition since the 1980s.
Back then robots were associated with science fiction and toys. Today the collaborative robots we make at Universal Robots are supporting tasks that would have left everyone speechless 20 years ago. I’m confident that in another 20 years, automation and robotics will undoubtedly be able to do things we cannot even begin to imagine today.
Getting ready for the future
Robots are making an enormous difference to businesses and people. They are improving working environments and helping companies to remain productive despite widespread labor shortages. Industries and businesses of all sizes are learning to harness their potential and are changing the way that work is done.
Knowing this, how can we both as societies and as individuals prepare ourselves for a world where automation is going to be an essential and natural part of everyday life? As I see it, the answer comes in two parts:
More than digital natives
First, with automation and robotics constantly evolving and becoming increasingly common in a wide range of industries, it is evident that we will need more people who can operate and innovate the technology and develop solutions to industry challenges. And that means we need to educate younger generations so they can obtain the right skills and familiarity with robotics and autonomous systems.
Of course, not everybody will be working as robotics engineers in 2050, but automation will be an integral part of our everyday life and knowledge of automation and technology will be crucial when it comes to understanding the businesses and society of tomorrow.
But, you might ask, aren’t our kids already digitalized from an early age today? Yes, that is partly true. All over the world children already have early access to technology. But there is a major difference between using an iPad and receiving proper digital education. This is where public policy comes in. Countries and states are developing their own approaches here, though while some have already established free public access to state-of-the-art digital education, others are lagging behind.
At Universal Robots we want to help build education provision that is fit for the future.
In some countries we are already engaged in digital education, providing ready-to-use curriculum and hardware to schools, colleges, and universities. The kits we have developed have been welcomed for their intuitive simplicity.
We are most effective in education settings where educators, industry and policy makers come together to create decisive change. For example, by working together to create courses helpful to and recognized by both industry bodies and educators. In education as well as automation, collaboration is key.
Upskilling has instant effect
Focusing on the education of our future workforce is only half the solution though. Upskilling the current labor force is just as important. Though it is becoming easier to use robot technology by the day, manufacturers need to ensure that their employees feel confident around technology.
Universal Robots is helping to reach the existing workforce through our Academy offer, which now has almost 150,000 users from 130 countries. We deliver training online and through instructors in 16 languages and across more than 100 training centers around the world.
We will keep improving our contribution to help make people at all stages of life ready for a world where technology, automation, and robotics are going to be integral – in business and in millions of people’s lives.
We are only just getting started, and what a ride it will be!
Kim Povlsen is President and CEO at Universal Robots