Rise of the Machines: Protecting Your Business from Paint Automation Reply

As we’ve discussed before, paint automation is becoming more and more present in professional paint work.  As new developments in robotics and programming emerge, more and more paint work is being performed by sophisticated robots and machines instead of individual painters. And as with most technology, the cost of utilizing robots for these processes is declining at an accelerating rate. That said, not all types of commercial painting can be handled by a machine and not all clients are prepared to embrace automation for work.

Automotive paint robot

Robots took over automotive painting long ago.
Image courtesy of Fanuc Robotics

As with any business, paint robotics are most prevalent in sectors where repeatability and standardization dictate workflows. Industrial sectors like manufacturing have long utilized paint robots in place of human painters. It has likely been decades since a human being painted any part of an automobile for Toyota, General Motors, or any of the larger car companies in the world. Processes like mass manufacturing are ideal for automated painting. Conversely, paint robotics are least apparent – if not altogether absent – from paint work that has an element of customization. This isn’t limited to things like custom designs but also non-standard environments. For example, interior house painting is unlikely to ever be infringed upon by paint robots because the interior of each home or office is a unique size and shape.

Furthermore, this type of work is insulated from paint robots for another important reason: cost.  The economics of paint automation make it impossible for robots to provide a cost-effective solution for any paint work that isn’t of a large scale. This is where professional painters stand not only to benefit but build businesses that are insulated from paint automation and paint robots.

So here’s the question: Is your business subject to replacement by robots?  And if so, what can you do to protect yourself?

Like computers of all types, robotic paint sprayers were initially large, expensive, and cumbersome to operate. In the last fifteen years, the cost of outfitting a factory with a wide assortment of paint robots has moved from the domain of only the largest enterprises like automobile and aircraft manufacturers to smaller businesses like auto body shops and custom boat facilities. Whereas previous paint machines cost hundreds of thousands of dollars and required a highly-specialized skill set to operate, present-day paint robots can be purchased for a few thousand dollars and easily controlled by most anyone in the paint shop. Earlier paint robots required paint programs to be deployed in stages. Now, an entire paint job can be set to run from start to finish with minimal human interaction at all.

Robot paint software

Repeatable tasks can be programmed via a paint robot.
Image courtesy of Robot Master

Protecting your own business begins with having an honest understanding of what work you provide that may one day be taken over by paint robots. Custom airbrushing or house painting is unlikely to see you replaced with a robot. But if you apply finishes for a custom cabinet maker, it is possible that your position will be filled by a machine sooner rather than later. Knowing where you stand now gives you time to develop a differentiated skill set or service offering that a machine can not easily replicate, which means you remain safe from replacement.

If your business is to not only survive, but thrive, you must be aware of emerging technology that threatens to make your offerings, services, and abilities obsolete.  Staying one step ahead of the robots is the best strategy for protecting yourself and your entire enterprise. Keep an eye on Rise of the Machines to know what advances and breakthroughs are happening. Click here to learn more about how BYK can help make your paint business more efficient so that paint robotics never catch up to the premium quality you offer!

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