We all know that automation and motion control are capable of some pretty incredible things. Just go to any packaging line or manufacturing plant floor and you can see firsthand what automation can do. But as great as automation is today, it is constantly improving. Researchers and engineers are tweaking, fine-tuning, and overhauling automated systems to make them better in every way imaginable. The rate at which automation is improving and being applied is staggering. Many view this as a good thing, however there is some concern about how increased automation will affect the job market. A new study suggests that as many as 6% of jobs in the United States will be automated in the next five years.
Job automation in the U.S.
The report came from the Forrester research firm. According to the report, robots will replace humans in 6% of all jobs in the United States. According to Forrester, customer service, consumer service, logistics, and transportation jobs will be automated first. The groundwork is already laid down to automate these industries, and it’s just a matter of time before it happens. And according to the report, that amount of time is five years.
The pieces are in place for automation
While 6% might come as a surprise, job automation is old news, and the pieces are in place for even more worker displacement.
Automation is already present in our lives in many different areas. An increasing number of people use automated assistants. Uber recently rolled out automated transportation services. Self-serve kiosks and self-checkouts are commonplace in stores and supermarkets. There are robots that help you with your home improvement needs.
Transportation services could be completed automated. Trucking companies could rely on self-driving vehicles. Automated systems could replace customer service jobs. Automation is becoming increasingly important in sales jobs. Grocery stores need fewer clerks. Automation improves efficiency, eliminates human error, and saves employers money.
It’s easy to see why Forrester predicts such a high displacement of workers in the next 5 years.
What does this mean for human workers?
It’s great that we are streamlining processes, increasing efficiency and productivity, and cutting costs, but what does job automation mean for human workers? There are an estimated 125.89 million full-time employees in the United States, and if 6% of those people were to lose their job, that’s roughly 7.5 million people out of work. And it’s not just that those people are out of work, but their jobs no longer exist. That would have a significant impact on the U.S. economy.
On the other hand, new jobs arise almost as fast as old ones disappear, often as a result of new technologies. Industry 4.0 has human needs that couldn’t have been foreseen the last time a new Indramat module rolled off the assembly line. Workers displaced from old-school jobs need to gain the skills they need for the new jobs. That’s the real challenge of increasing automation.