By Richard Arneson
We’ve been hearing it for years—automation, robots, and, more recently, AI will kill jobs and leave people out of work, out of money, tank the economy, etc. And there’s no industry more fearful of automation than manufacturing, that it will mark an end to jobs, especially those that require manual, physical tasks. Not to dismiss anybody’s concerns, especially those in the manufacturing sector, but there’s proof that automation will have the exact opposite effect.
Here are a couple of real-world examples:
Wing Enterprises, a manufacturing company in Utah, turned to Lincoln Electric, an Ohio-based automation company, to build customized welding robots after their infomercials skyrocketed the demand for their products. Wing couldn’t keep up with the demand, but Lincoln Electric had the answer. They built customized robots for Wing and, as a result, the company’s productivity has not only increased by 30%, but their workforce grew, as well. In addition, they had to build another facility and staff it.
Then there’s Crown Equipment, an Indiana-based maker of forklifts, that purchased three (3) robots from Lincoln Electric and promptly put them to work. The result? Due to Crown’s resultant enhanced productivity they enjoyed not only greater revenue, but, as a result, increased their workforce by sixty percent (60%), from 200 to 335 employees.
As a result of automation and robotics, much of Wing’s and Crown’s workers required additional training, but is that such a bad thing? Now, on their resume, they’ll be able to point to their expertise working on cutting-edge, innovative technologies that companies will be utilizing for years to come. Can becoming a more marketable worker be a bad thing? And with that experience they’ll be able to provide real-world examples of their problem-solving skills and abilities to develop new ideas and processes.
Skillsets re-defined, re-learned
Yes, it’s highly likely that more predictable, physical work will be replaced by automation, but with that there will be a tremendous need for data collection, processing, monitoring and analytics. As a result, there will be a greater need for workers who will be empowered to make educated decisions based on their findings. It will mean the re-designing of processes, utilizing data to enhance the customer experience, and the need to create more efficient operations.
No question, many workers will need to be re-skilled, but is that a bad thing? Not in my book. On Monday, I discussed the topic of change, especially as it pertains to adopting new technologies, and how, yes, it can be a little daunting. But, as the quote goes, Great things never came from comfort zones.
In short, automation hasn’t resulted in lost jobs, lost wages or unemployed workers. New technologies, if they’re deployed properly and effectively, can greatly enhance productivity and generate higher revenues, neither of which will spell doom for the job market. In fact, manufacturing has enjoyed tremendous job growth in recent years at a time when automation is becoming more and more ubiquitous.
Success will be defined through communication, training
According to a recent survey, only forty-four percent (44%) of workers believe their job will be improved due to technology. But, according to the same study, almost seventy-five percent (75%) are confident in their own abilities to adapt and learn new skills in the event automation affects their job. Yes, change is frightening, but taking advantage of change as a result of new technologies can mean workers will move from repetitive tasks to more thought-provoking, meaningful work. Of course, for automation to quell workforce fears and excite employees about its many benefits, the companies employing these strategies will have to fully support employees’ movement from existing jobs to newer, quality ones. For every one (1) employee who’s downgraded from a manual position to a lesser, lower-paying job, there may need to be hundreds of workers whose positions are enhanced by technology to make up for it.
Call on the experts
Talking to professionals who’ve helped companies automate processes to enhance operations and grow their bottom line should be a key element of your technology roadmap. GDT’s tenured, talented solutions architects, engineers and security analysts understand how to positively incorporate change by designing and deploying innovative solutions that help customers realize greater productivity, enhanced operations and more revenue. GDT helps organizations transform their legacy environments into highly productive digital infrastructures and architectures. You can reach them at SolutionsArchitects@GDT.com or at Engineering @GDT.com. They’d love to hear from you.