What Skills Does a Robotics Technician Need?
The heart of any robotics deployment will always be the skilled technicians who make sure the robotic systems are working properly, safely, and optimally in a manufacturing environment. It’s also a growing field with more and more people seeing a place for themselves on a robotics team’s roster. If you’re interested in developing your skills, this guide will help you pick the competencies most in demand.
You might have heard about the decline in manufacturing jobs in the US, more specifically in the midwest and Ohio Valley areas. While there might be fewer jobs for laborers on the manufacturing floor, there is no shortage of employment opportunities in manufacturing. The future is in robots and automation.
The Jobs Data is There
According to the National Association of Manufacturers, there are more than 12 million Americans directly employed in manufacturing, or roughly 9% of the total workforce, and that number is growing. What’s growing, too, is the sale, and therefore the implementation, of robots. This means that robots are not taking jobs away but making them.
Nuts and Bolts
As a robotics technician, you’ll often find yourself on the manufacturing floor, tending to the mechanical needs of robots. This means you’ll benefit from some training in mechanics. You’ll want to spend time particularly on hydraulics, pneumatics, and electronics, as all of these will have a role in the continuing operation of the machines.
Part of this material maintenance of robots is an understanding of basic engineering principles like physics and fluid mechanics. You’ll also benefit from more electronics-focused areas like working with microprocessors, circuit boards, networking technology, and other computer technology.
These skills will help you learn how to fix robots that break, identify issues with the robotic systems, or even make working robots work better.
Don’t Forget the Brains
That’s all fine for the hardware, but what about software? A robot has a brain in addition to an artificial body, and a robotics technician needs to know how to service the software, too. You won’t be debugging code or programming assembly code, but you might be expected to know how to update the software or identify if a problem with a robotics component is software or hardware. If you’re looking for a more technical or academically rigorous career, you should consider robotics engineering.
The Foundational Skills
According to data compiled by the ARM Institute, one of the most important skills a robotics technician can have is the ability to troubleshoot, or identify problems and fix them. This term does not only refer to a general systems-level awareness of how the different pieces of the manufacturing process can fit together but can also include a more targeted awareness of how those systems work, both from an electronics perspective and a mechanical one.
Right behind troubleshooting on our list of robotics technician skills is preventative maintenance, followed closely by repair and welding. These aren’t necessary, but they definitely don’t hurt and can make you an even more attractive candidate to many employers.
Some aspects of the robotics field are more abstract than what can be summed up in a syllabus or work order. A robotics technician should have an analytical mind, ready and willing to take a problem apart and put it back together. A good robotics technician will also welcome challenges and not shy away from a task or obstacle that seems insurmountable. Tenacity and wherewithal are essential to a successful career as a robotics technician. It also helps to be an able communicator, as you’ll be working with people across many disciplines and fields, sometimes all at once, while servicing the robotics systems assigned to you. Clear, open dialogue with these stakeholders and coworkers will serve any robotics technician well.
No Need for an Expensive College Degree…
You don’t need a Ph.D. in Robotics to find a great career as a robotics technician. Aside from a high school diploma or equivalent, most technicians have two-year associate’s degrees, readily available from educational providers everywhere. In other words, you’re not as far away from a great job in robotics as you might think, and education is not going to be your highest obstacle.
But Education Doesn’t Hurt
As we noted above, you don’t need a dozen years in higher academics to get a great job as a robotics technician. You’ll need at least a high school diploma and more than a passing interest in science and mathematics. A higher degree, like a BS, would be optimal but many robotics technicians stick to the two-year associate’s degree in robotics.
If you’d like to learn more about how you can become a robotics technician, and get some help along the way, check out www.roboticscareer.org.