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Automation and Human Labor

Introduction

The development of new technologies in recent years has enabled human beings to boost their jobs. Automation— equipment, processes, or systems that are able to operate automatically— is one of the innovations that has helped people and businesses improve their performance. However, many fear the impact that this technology will have on human labor, fearing that machines will take over their jobs. In this article, we introduce some of the benefits of automation and provide an overview of the jobs that can potentially be automated. We then finalize with recommendations to assure a good implementation of automation in the businesses.

Benefits of Automation

Implementing automatic robots in a company has multiple benefits. In the first place, as it is widely known, automation can increase overall productivity and reduce production costs. This is because robots can work for longer periods of time, at a faster pace, and in a more reliable way compared to humans, which increases the production rate. In addition, automated machinery can improve the quality of the products/services, reduce waste, and promote better floor space utilization. Finally, by deploying automation companies can stay competitive and attract new customers thanks to the higher throughput and lower costs.

Jobs That Can Be Automated

In recent times, the fear of human labor being replaced by automated technology is a trending topic, however, the future is not devastating as many portray. As stated by Bughin et al., “while less than 5 percent of all occupations can be automated entirely using demonstrated technologies, about 60 percent of all occupations have at least 30 percent of constituent activities that could be automated” (2017).

Indeed, when automation is effectively deployed in a business, repetitive activities are removed which allows people to focus on other tasks that are more important and dynamic (Harris, 2020). This enhances human labor and increases their productivity, quality of work, and may even raise the wages of the people (International Federation of Robotics, n.d.). 

It is important to consider that the effect of automation on employment depends on the occupation and the sector. Research from Batra et al. (2017) describes that physical jobs in predictable environments could be more affected by the consequences of this change, as well as jobs that require collecting and processing data. This could allow the creation of new jobs that require higher and newer skills. On the other hand, automation is not developed enough to perform jobs that involve people managing, expertise appliance, interpersonal interactions, and work in unpredictable environments (Batra et al., 2017).

Adapting to the Changing Times

It is of great importance to adapt to the changing times and embrace these technologies in an effective and efficient way. To do this, the current and the future workforce have to prepare for these new times and they require to learn new skills that are needed. As Batra, P. et al. suggest “In many countries, this may require an initiative on the scale of the Marshall Plan, involving sustained investment, new training models, programs to ease worker transitions, income support, and collaboration between the public and private sectors” (2017), this way, automation will bring a positive impact on the human labor.

Recommendations to Implement Automation

It is crucial to have a network technology that can be the backbone of operations and can help companies to develop automation successfully. This can be done through 5G, which is characterized by its high speed and bandwidth, low latency, and high throughput. Copgemini (2019) supports this idea arguing that 5G is “a key enabler of smart factory initiatives as its features would provide manufacturers the opportunity to introduce or enhance a variety of real-time and highly reliable applications… 5G is also unique in that it offers ‘network slicing,’ allowing the physical spectrum to be split and to be allocated to specific applications” (as cited in Hornyak, 2020).

Conclusion

Automated technologies are expected to perform an increasing amount of tasks in the incoming years, however, this does not have to be a threat for human labor as long as companies and individuals are able to adapt to this change by developing the necessary skills to perform current and new jobs. In order to successfully deploy automation, it is crucial for businesses to have a networking technology such as 5G, which has key features that allow the technologies to perform at their best.

Sources

Advantages of Automation. (n.d.). RobotWorx. Retrieved from https://www.robots.com/articles/advantages-of-automation

Batra, P.,  Bughin, J., Chui, M.,  Ko, R.,  Lund, S., Manyika, Sanghvi, S., & J. Woetzel, J.(2017). Jobs lost, jobs gained: What the future of work will mean for jobs, skills, and wages. McKinsey & Company. https://www.mckinsey.com/featured-insights/future-of-work/jobs-lost-jobs-gained-what-the-future-of-work-will-mean-for-jobs-skills-and-wages#part1

Bughin, J., Chui, M., Dewhurst, M., George, K., Manyika, J., Miremadi, M., & Willmott, P. (2017). A Future That Works: Automation, Employment, And Productivity. McKinsey & Co. https://www.mckinsey.com/~/media/mckinsey/featured%20insights/Digital%20Disruption/Harnessing%20automation%20for%20a%20future%20that%20works/MGI-A-future-that-works-Executive-summary.ashx

Harris, S. (2020). The Benefits Of Automation In Today’s Workforce. Forbes. https://www.forbes.com/sites/forbestechcouncil/2020/05/01/the-benefits-of-automation-in-todays-workforce/?sh=5f21c2c11cc8

Hornyak, T. (2020). 5G is accelerating factory automation that could add trillions to the global economy. CNBC. https://www.cnbc.com/2020/07/11/5g-spurs-factory-automation-could-add-trillions-to-economy.html

International Federation of Robotics. (n.d.). Robots Create Jobs! IFR International Federation of Robotics. Retrieved from https://ifr.org/robots-create-jobs


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