Robots vs. humans – Interview with Nabtesco about the new world of work

Automation, digitalization, globalization, new technologies and demographic change are transforming the world of work. This challenges employees and employers alike. Sarah Zielke (Junior Manager Human Resources) and Daniel Obladen (Head of Sales General Industries) from Nabtesco on robots, employee wellbeing and the future of work.

The increasing use of robots and automation systems in industry is changing the world of work. As an automation specialist and world market leader in the field of robotic gearboxes, Nabtesco is playing a key role in this development. Are robots the better workers?

Daniel Obladen: No, definitely not. Humans and robots should not be seen as competitors, because they are not. We see automation as a tool that helps to make the future more successful, safer, more economical and more pleasant for people. Nobody should have to spend time in dangerous environments or carry out monotonous work. This striving for perfection, interlinking of process steps and machine automation has led to us equipping automation applications in all sectors today, including production, medicine, the packaging industry, machine tool manufacturing and logistics. Rising wage levels and demographic change in European countries also mean that labor is becoming increasingly expensive. Automation and digitalization are essential in order to keep up with global competition..

Many employees take a less pragmatic view of this…

Sarah Zielke: We are aware that many people are concerned about the changes in the world of work. Professions are disappearing, new fields of activity are emerging. Work is becoming more networked, more mobile, more flexible and more heterogeneous. Demands and requirement profiles are changing, new qualifications and skills are in demand. This presents employees with challenges, but at the same time also offers plenty of opportunities. How these are used is also up to us employers. The decisive factor is well thought-out, motivating and future-oriented employee management that takes staff on board and makes them fit for the current and upcoming changes.

They seem to be doing a lot right. Nabtesco was recognized as a “kununu Top Company” in 2023 and 2024, making it one of the best employers in Germany. What is the secret of your success?

Sarah Zielke: Our staff are the most valuable thing we have. They have brought us to where we are today. That is why we are constantly working on optimizing our working conditions and creating a relaxed and inspiring atmosphere for our employees. Because only motivated staff make our company successful. Self-determination, independence and self-realization are important to us. We support our employees in their personal and professional development and involve them in decision-making. With us, they can freely develop their potential and contribute their ideas. Mobile working and a coaching management style contribute to a good work-life balance and create agile working methods and an attractive working environment.

Daniel Obladen: Teamwork is very important to us. We attach great importance to diversity, because innovation, creativity and success require heterogeneous structures, different skills, perspectives and points of view as well as cross-departmental collaboration. For us, diversity is not just about gender, culture, religion or age, but rather about accepting other opinions and attitudes - caused by the different socializations, values and stereotypes in our team. Respect for each individual is the most important thing.

New Work methods that strike a chord with the times...

Daniel Obladen: We are shaping the future with our technologies. Our cycloidal gears are genuine innovations and technologically and economically superior to conventional solutions in many applications. As a partner of modern automation technology, we stand for forward-thinking and progressive thinking. We also live this spirit in our team. To remain attractive as an employer, we have to move with the times, throw outdated ways of thinking and acting overboard and focus all our energy on the necessary transformation processes.

Sarah Zielke: The understanding of work is different today than it used to be. Work has long been more than just a job. Money and status are no longer enough to attract good specialists. Today, meaningful work, a good work-life balance, respectful collaboration and personal responsibility are crucial. Topics such as sustainability, social responsibility, mental health and diversity are also becoming increasingly relevant. We take these needs into account with our employee management system.

How are automation and digitalization changing work at Nabtesco?

Daniel Obladen: As a sales-driven company, we need to find answers to the increasing shift of purchasing decisions to the Internet. Pure product sales are increasingly being handled via online stores and online marketplaces. This applies in particular to orders from the standard range, which require little or no advice. For us in sales, this means that we can only offer added value if we become a strategic advisor and partner who actively supports customers in their business success. Creative and innovative solutions are required, multi-level selling is the order of the day. In addition to a high level of technical expertise, the focus is therefore increasingly on soft skills such as leadership, teamwork and self-management.

Ms. Zielke and Mr. Obladen, thank you very much for the interview.

Company information Nabtesco

Today, Nabtesco is the world's largest manufacturer of cycloidal precision gearboxes, with over twelve million RV gearboxes now in use. The high-performance reduction gears cover a wide range of applications. They are used in machine tools, industrial robots – over 60 % of all industrial robots around the world use Nabtesco products – handling, packaging technology and factory automation. With more than 8,000 employees in numerous production facilities and sales and service centers around the world, Nabtesco offers comprehensive customer service for individual needs.