To Automate or Not To Automate…Automation Is The Answer
A recent article by CNN goes on to state, “The Bank of England has warned that machines could take over 80 million American and 15 million British jobs over the next 10 to 20 years. That’s roughly 50% of the workforce in each country.”
There is no question that robots and automation provide efficiencies far greater than human capabilities. Machines work faster, don’t need breaks and always show up to work on time.
Does this mean that people will be put out of work as the quote states? No, robotics and automation is the constant evolution of the industrial revolution. When Henry Ford created a production line and was able to build a car in a day rather than a month where there articles and protesters calling for “the good old days?” Progress moves forward.
Over 20 years ago, Dispen-SI-matic A-Frame systems where putting together thousands of orders an hour. Did it eliminate people? No, it displaced them to other parts of their organization that needed resources. Companies such as Walgreens, CVS, Rite-Aid, Johnson & Johnson and many others were taking full advantage of the benefits of automation and robotics and growing their businesses.
What is the alternative? The nature of business constantly drives improvement and profitability. The widespread use of automation and robotics over the past 20 years was progressively increasing, but at a very slow rate. Fast forward to today where supply chains and distribution systems are being required to evolve to perform at higher levels than previously thought possible. How do you obtain these efficiencies? Automation and robotic systems. No one automates just for the sake of automation. They automate to solve a problem and increase their competitiveness, business levels and profitability.
A return on investment (ROI) is an easy indicator to see whether automation and robotics is even worth considering. Today we are seeing the different elements of automation and robotics line up to make it a simple decision.
- Costs of the equipment has been decreasing or saying steady over the last number of years.
- The precision and accuracy of these systems have increased dramatically.
- The performance levels and capabilities have increased exponentially.
- The burdened cost of labor in the US has increased while the age and obesity levels of the workforce make keeping a trained workforce more challenging.
- The availability of cheap money makes financing and getting capital at the easiest point in decades.
When you mix these elements, they translate into a need for automation and robotics that companies looking to survive and thrive need to do. Companies can’t simply say they are the cheapest and best manufacturer in a state or region. They usually have to be the best in the world to keep their organizations healthy.
Cheap labor, lax environmental controls, cheap resources, government funding, trained labor and many other factors need to be negated when working locally but competing globally.
So will robots and automation replace up to 50% of England’s labor in 10 to 20 years? It might in numbers, but what will it create? Multiple fold employment for engineers designing and implementing the automation and robotics. The IT, service and maintenance people who will be in even greater demand to keep these new mission critical equipment running and optimized.
Plus let’s look at the most obvious answer. If England’s (and the world’s) companies don’t optimize their processes and equipment they won’t be in business in 10 to 20 years. The net loss of jobs is far greater than the 50%… it’s 100%! If companies can’t be competitive they are out of business and every job in the facility and those servicing that facility are totally eliminated. Automation and robots don’t seem too bad now?
So yes, automation and robots do eliminate labor, but they provide the necessary optimization levels required to compete and thrive in a world based economy and will create jobs ten-fold to replace those it displaces. Yes, not replaces, but displaces. The gilded craftsmen who built buggy whips and processed whale oil didn’t one day cease to exist. They learned new crafts and professions and have thrived in a global economy where automation and robots work together with their human benefactors to everyone’s benefit.