Authors: Andre P. Calitz, Paul Poisat, Margaret Cullen
Journal Title: South African Journal of Human Resource Management
ISSN: 1683-7584 (Print); 2071-078X (Online)
Society/Institution: University of Johannesburg
Orientation: Industry 4.0 promotes technological innovations and human–robot collaboration (HRC). Human–robot interaction (HRI) and HRC on the manufacturing assembly line have been implemented in numerous advanced production environments worldwide. Collaborative robots (Cobots) are increasingly being used as collaborators with humans in factory production and assembly environments.
Research purpose: The purpose of the research is to investigate the current use and future implementation of Cobots worldwide and its specific impact on the African workforce.
Motivation for the study: Exploring the gap that exists between the international implementation of Cobots and the potential implementation and impact on the African manufacturing and assembly environment and specifically on the African workforce.
Research design, approach and method: The study features a qualitative research design. An open-ended question survey was conducted amongst leading manufacturing companies in South Africa in order to determine the status and future implementation of Cobot practices. Thematic analysis and content analysis were conducted using AtlasTi.
Main findings: The findings indicate that the African businesses were aware of the international business trends, regarding Cobot implementation, and the possible impact of Cobots on the African work force. Factors specifically highlighted in this study are fear of retrenchment, human–Cobot trust and the African culture.
Practical implications and value-add: This study provides valuable background on the international status of Cobot implementation and the possible impact on the African workforce. The study highlights the importance of building employee trust, providing the relevant training and addressing the fear of retrenchment amongst employees.
This article is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International (CC BY 4.0) license.
Illustration Photo: A Pratt and Whitney technician programs a robot to safely move a hopper that will hold pieces of an M55 rocket warhead at the Blue Grass Chemical Agent-Destruction Pilot Plant. Once programmed, the robot will be operated safely from the Control Room. This technology protects the workforce by limiting the need for human interaction with the munitions during operations. (credits: PEO ACWA / Flickr Creative Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0))