The invasion of robots into factories and offices has long been seen as final blow for workforces ravaged by cheap offshore labour and the never ending quest to cut costs.
However, that is a view being seriously challenged in hi-tech steel fabricating factory just south of Brisbane.
Having put “artificially intelligent” welding and cutting equipment to work, Smart Steel Systems chief executive Chis Brugeaud said he was now able to bring back jobs “onshore” and reverse the trend of laying off people as technology improves.
“What makes us different from the traditional fabricator is we have as many developers as we do welders, so we can process around 42,000 tonnes of steel a year,” Mr Brugeaud told The Business program.
Robotics has delivered two noticeable outcomes. It has more than halved the time it takes to produce a tonne of fabricated steel and the number of employees has risen from three to nine.
The payroll now includes software, mechatronics and robotics engineers.
The company’s welders and boilermakers like Mike Robinson have moved off the factory floor into the office and now sit alongside computer scientists and artificial intelligence experts.
“We’ve gone from marking material out on your hands and knees by hand and cutting it by hand, to profile cutting out by computer technology,” Mr Robinson said.