Dhaka, Saturday, 12 June 2021

Robotics in Apparel World

Experts warns— ‘adapt or die’ By 2030 robot to devour 60% RMG job

Experts warns— ‘adapt or die’ By 2030 robot to devour 60% RMG job

Special Correspondent :The apparel world is experiencing an unprecedented acceleration in technological advancement and implementation. Basically, automation is the use of control systems such as computers to control the industrial machinery and processes replacing human operators. As profound shifts are taking place– entire sectors are accommodating the innovations, rendering several human performed occupations redundant. In the near future, some positions may be eliminated entirely. At the same time, other jobs are experiencing a rapid increase in demand, and some occupations are revising the skill sets they traditionally require. Bangladesh, a country of about 29 billion-dollar apparel exports.Today, the industry has been changed a lot and it achieved the second position in garments exporting worldwide. However, to continue this position Bangladesh is facing different types of challenges. According to a most latest study by the Bangladesh government’s agency revealed that the employment situation in major sectors of the country is likely to face a serious setback by 2030 due to automation.

The research by a2i, a special programme of the Government of Bangladesh that catalyzes citizen-friendly public service innovations simplifying government and bringing it closer to people, showed that a substantial number of job

losses will take place in the readymade garments, agriculture and some other sectors.
The research found that the job loss in the RMG sector would be 60 per cent by 2030, which is very alarming for the country. The job loss would be 35 percent in the leather sector, 20 percent in tourism sector, around 1.4 million workers would lose job in the furniture sector and 0.6 million workers would lose job in the agro-processing sector. Discussions surrounding this topic are often polarized, with one side expressing excitement for the opportunity to improve product quality and living standards, and opponents voicing grave concern regarding the massive dislocation of jobs. However, a proper grasp of this topic requires a sector-wise understanding, as not all sectors are impacted equally by the advancement of technology.
In this alarming scenario, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s Private Industry and Investment Advisor Salman F. Rahman said that there are many frightening issues with regard to 4th Industrial Revolution. The most frightening is when machines take over that of human brain, many moral and ethical issues will arise that need to be addressed. He said “We are going to face very challenging time which people are not realizing now.
Experts from around the world warned that the automation may be most important issue for labor markets in the near future. They said deep and rapid structural changes are on the horizon, bringing with them major new opportunities but also greater uncertainty among those who are not well equipped to grasp them. Their message for developing and poor nations is quite simple— adapt or die.
In a report published in last week by The Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development, revealed that 14 percent of jobs could disappear from automation in next 15 to 20 years, 32 percent likely to change radically from automation. One in seven workers are self employed, one in nine on temporary contracts. Six out of ten workers lack basic IT skills. Union membership has fallen by almost half in the past three decades. The reports also said that the changes in employment will hit some workers more than others — particularly young people with lower levels of education and women who are more likely to be under-employed and working in low paid jobs.
As it is an era of fast fashion, it is normal that buyers want product within short lead time and also with low price. Already Bangladesh is lagging behind in lead time management from its competitor countries. Vietnam and Cambodia have become major competitors of Bangladesh due to their shorter lead time and trade agreement. The lead time from Bangladesh is around forty days, whereas it is only twenty days from these two Asian nations. Automating their production line to boost output and cope with strict lead time, which ultimately reduced demand of human resources.
According to World Bank data, the number of new jobs added by the garment and textile trades has fallen to 60,000 a year, from over 300,000 annually between 2003 and 2010. Government statistics show a crucial part of the supply chain, the production of basic textiles, is already seeing an outright decline in jobs. Earlier, in 2016, a study of International Labor Organization predicted some Asian nations could lose more than 80% of their garment, textile and apparel manufacturing jobs as automation spreads.
A survey conducted by the Centre for Policy Dialogue (CPD) reports that the female workers participation in Bangladesh readymade garments sector is decreasing due to the automation of manufacturing. The survey reported that the female workers participation ratio in the garment sector was 60.8 percent in 2016, however, that was 64 percent in 2015. Research Director of the CPD, K. G. Moazzem, said “female workers participation is declining because the factory owners think female workers are not able to handle modern machinery rightly.”
On the contrary, factory owners said that the productivity has increased after using machine technology, so necessity of manpower has decreased significantly. Many industries are already using modern technologies. After 10 years when robot technology will come then, it will decrease labor further. Already many workers are looking for new jobs to the different sectors. “We are using new technology in our industry for making value-added products, because the market is competitive, the price is competitive and lead time has been also decreased. I think some manpower may be decreased due to automation but the industry needs more skilled worker to adopt the new technology”, told Rafiq Hassan, Director of Northern Toshrifa Group, Bangladesh.
According to a report published recently in Wall Street Journal on Mohammadi Fashion Sweaters Ltd. factory of Bangladesh, a few dozen workers are working as hundreds of German made machines knitting black sweaters for overseas buyers. As machines performing their duties, the workers occasionally step into program designs or clean the machines, means that— there is least for humans to do. But a few years ago when hundreds of employees could be found standing over manual knitting stations for up to ten hours a day. Mohammadi Group began phasing out such work in 2012, and by mid of 2017, the knitting process was fully automated.
President of BGMEA and Managing Director of Mohammadi Group, Rubana Huq says, “It doesn’t make sense for us to slow ourselves down and not automate,” Her factories have replaced hundreds of workers with machines and may do more, she added. Mohammadi Group makes sweaters and other apparel product for H&M, Zara, and other leading western brands.
Dr. Rubana said, “Apart from the image crisis, we have challenge to cope with the Fourth Industrial Revolution which is characterized by greater automation. We’re now concentrating on technological innovation to overcome the challenge and move forward. ” Besides, she said, Bangladesh’s graduation from LDC will also create some new challenges for RMG sector. “We’ll witness double transformation by 2027 due to the LDC graduation. So, we’ll lose out if we don’t have the backward linkage.”
President of Bangladesh Association of Software and Information Services (BASIS), national trade body for Software & IT Enabled Service industry, Syed Almas Kabir, said “Bangladesh could not tap all the benefits of the second and third industrial revolution, but could moderately overcome the setbacks.” The 4th Industrial Revolution that is going to happen within next three to five years will affect the country as artificial intelligence or robotics will not only replace manual jobs but also cognitive labor, he said.
Technology experts said that in this stiff situation, education needs to keep pace with the changing demand for skills with new technology. Skills are the most important issue for Bangladesh. They warned that in near future, the developed and developing countries might set up the manufacturing units in their countries to run with the robots as they will not need a lot of workers. They said that workers who need it the most participate the least in training. They strongly recommends more training and urges government to extend protections to workers in the “grey zone” where a blurring of employment and self employment often means a lack of rights. They warned of “negative ramifications” for social cohesion.
Already there was an abundant labor force in Bangladesh, reducing the urgency to automate. But labor costs have been climbing in Bangladesh. The technology is becoming so advanced, by which machines can increasingly handle difficult tasks such as manipulating pliable fabrics, stitching pockets and attaching belt loops to pants. There are strong different opinions in the industry on the impact of automation. Because most of the factories are not using advanced technology. Even many entrepreneurs use old technology due to their lack of knowledge of modern technology. But the aught to know that the new technology means— new market, and demand for manpower will not decline due to increase order of product.
We should remember that technology like artificial intelligence (AI), robots, cobot or co-robot (from collaborative robot) and automation will augment human capability. It will not replace them. It will not compete with them. Rather, it will be a complement for them. Jobs that machines will take over are those, that are better performed by machines—precision, coordination, rate control, strength, repetitive tasks, scalable data processing, etc. Humans will still be needed to support the machines to do their jobs by performing the higher order skilled tasks—problem solving, selective attention, critical thinking, handling ambiguity, judgment, empathy, etc. So the demand for skilled workers in using machinery and technology will continue to increase. The industry will be generating more output with less number of people.