The Opportunities and Obligations of Automation

McKinsey Global Institute estimates that as many as a third of American jobs may disappear by 2030. People have feared automation’s effect on employment since machines were first used for manufacturing. We have found new types of work to replace the jobs lost to machines with each new breakthrough in automation. Today’s level of technology is more advanced than ever before, however. We have advanced artificial intelligence, highly capable robots, and the internet.

We’re starting to see some game plans for an increasingly automated world take shape. Workers aren’t just reluctantly accepting a jobless future and crying themselves to sleep at night. Business owners aren’t rubbing their hands together in glee at the thought of replacing all of their slow, error-prone employees with fast, flawless machines. Automation opens doors, but it’s not all upside with artificial intelligence and robots.

Automation can’t completely replace humans

Grant Reid — the CEO of Mars, Incorporated — told Business Insider that automation creates “massive opportunities — but massive obligations as well.”

The opportunities associated with automation are pretty clear: increased profit, higher efficiency, more consistent quality, higher productivity, less waste, etc. Mars currently uses artificial intelligence to predict when a machine needs maintenance, allowing plants to fix a machine before it breaks.

Automating low skill tasks not only provides these benefits, but it allows frees human workers to focus more meaningful and valuable types of work.

People are still necessary in manufacturing and many other industries even with automated systems in place. As long as humans work in these industries, companies must make sure that they are equipped for their new roles.

This is where the obligation comes in.

Planning for an automated future

Employers, manufacturers, and business owners must look to the future and plan for increased robotization and automation. If you have machines and artificially intelligent systems doing the work that humans used to do, you must make sure that those workers are skilled, trained, and qualified to carry out new roles.

There’s a new emphasis is on retraining, or upskilling, current workers. Amazon made headlines with plans to upskill 100,000 employees by 2025, and Mars has already invested in retraining 10,000 manufacturing employees through the company’s own program, Mars University.

“It’s not just investing in the technology, but you’re investing in your associate base.”, says Reid. You want to invest in employees to provide them with a new job, but you also want to make sure that they are enjoying a good quality of life.

Training and educating workers makes sense as long as their are jobs for people to perform. Some experts picture a future where there simply aren’t enough jobs because of automation. Retraining and upskilling doesn’t matter much if there isn’t enough work to go around. This is when ideas like a robot tax and a universal basic income start to surface.

We won’t know for sure what will happen with automation and employment in the future, but we know with certainty that machines will continue to be essential in manufacturing. Make sure that your industrial motion control system is operating at its best. Call 479-422-0390 for Indramat support.