Today’s collaborative robots (“cobots”) quickly, easily, and cost-effectively automate secondary food-handling processes such as quality control, labeling, packaging, and palletizing. They’re easy to program with no engineering experience, and they can typically pay for themselves in less than a year.
One of the key drivers of accelerated adoption of industrial robots through the 1980s and beyond was worker safety. We hear much about job losses due to robots, but little about improvements in injury rates thanks to robotic handling. Strenuous and repetitive tasks such as palletizing, or hot and dangerous part handling in metal fabrication, were given over to robots.
Every industrial robot currently requires mechanical, electrical, and software care that wasn't required by older technology. So while unskilled labor may slowly dwindle, higher-level (and therefore higher-paid) opportunities will expand.