From assembly lines in large-scale industry to the dry cleaning conveyor system at the local cleaners, automation is everywhere. Workers, employers, experts and consumers have much to debate about what this means for them—what is gained, what it costs and where the costs will fall. It’s not necessarily all doom and gloom, though. Here are some aspects to consider as automation enters your business.
Not Just Robots
Automation technology is already present for many businesses—even if it doesn’t look like it. At its core, automation is about reducing or eliminating the need for menial tasks so that human efforts can be better utilized. This includes software systems, both customer-facing and internal, that ease management and workflow. Recognizing this can help reduce the shock of transition into more visible automation.
Changing Context of Labor
The common fear of “robots stealing jobs” comes from the idea that manual labor—and the humans that perform it—will be supplanted. This isn’t necessarily the case, though. For many tasks, automation aids, rather than replaces, human labor. Others are unlikely to be fully automated anytime soon because of associated costs and human skills being irreplaceable. Some new jobs will even arise to supervise automation and maintain it when it can’t maintain itself.
The Need for Continued Learning
The transition is often not seamless, of course. While some forms of automation are practically invisible, others require workers to develop new skills to manage and interface with the technology. This skill gap has already come to be, but further automation will only widen it. Employers will find it increasingly important to ensure workplace training, as inbound workers may not have all the required skills from the onset.
Automation has had its place in small and large businesses alike for years now, and its relevance is projected to only increase in the near future. The challenge that businesses face is to make the most of it and to ensure job security for the workforce.