From baristas to inspectors, Singapore’s robotic workforce is filling labor shortages

SINGAPORE, May 30 (Reuters) – After struggling to find staff during the pandemic, Singapore companies have increasingly turned to deploying robots to perform a range of tasks, from inspecting construction sites to scanning library bookshelves .

The city-state relies on foreign workers, but their numbers fell by 235,700 between December 2019 and September 2021, according to the Labor Department, which notes how COVID-19 restrictions have “slowed the pace of technology adoption and automation” by companies. accelerated.

At a construction site in Singapore, a four-legged robot called “Spot,” built by US company Boston Dynamics, scans sections of mud and gravel to monitor work progress, feeding the data back to construction company Gammon’s control room.

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Gammon’s general manager, Michael O’Connell, said that using Spot required only one human worker instead of the two previously required to do the work manually.

“Replacing the need for on-site manpower with autonomous solutions is really gaining momentum,” said O’Connell, who believes the industry labor shortage exacerbated by the pandemic continues.

Meanwhile, Singapore’s National Library has introduced two shelf-reading robots that can scan labels on 100,000 books, or about 30 percent of its collection, per day.

“Staff don’t have to read the phone numbers on the shelf one by one, and this reduces the routine and labor-intensive aspects,” said Lee Yee Fuang, deputy director at the National Library Board.

Singapore has installed 605 robots per 10,000 manufacturing workers, the second-highest number globally, after 932 in South Korea, according to a 2021 report from the International Federation of Robotics.

Robots are also used for customer-facing tasks, with more than 30 subway stations set up to allow robots to make coffee for commuters.

Keith Tan, chief executive of Crown Digital, which created the barista robot, said it helped solve the “biggest pain point” in food and drink — finding staff — while creating high-paying positions to help the industry. automate.

However, some people who tried the service still craved human interaction.

“We always want to have some kind of human contact,” commuter Ashish Kumar said, sipping a robot-brewed drink.

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Editing by Ed Davies and Bradley Perrett

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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