Technology and automation open up a lot of possibility for certain aspects of manufacturing, but it also opens up a lot of discussion on how it will affect employment opportunities for humans. Artificial intelligence (AI), robotics, and machine learning integration in many workplaces have been called the beginning of the end for a human workforce. Now that various manufacturers have begun to leverage more advanced automation and technology, are such assessments accurate?
Manufacturers and distributors of all manner of products implement automation on multiple levels. Superior Washer, a U.S. washer and shim manufacturer, relies on complex, technology-driven systems to manage its inventory of over a billion washers. Walmart, Amazon, and other e-commerce giants have revolutionized the use of robots to help fulfill and package the thousands upon thousands of orders they receive on a daily basis.
Automation in these circumstances makes sense. They enable businesses to do more and offer more. They’re then able to meet with the increased demand that results from those improvements. As companies grow from increased automation, this growth simply creates more opportunities for additional technology rather than human workers with skills and experience to offer.
According to a new study from ABI Research, there are reasons to be optimistic for human roles in a technology-driven workplace. Manufacturers and other companies implementing more automation can create new opportunities for current and future employees as a direct result of the technology they leverage.
After surveying 455 American companies, ABI Research found that 67% of respondents said they had not yet implemented an internet of things (IoT) based solution to accommodate a technological transition into automation, AI, and robotics, though 74% of that same group were in the process of considering or planning for implementation in the very near future. This is fertile ground for doing things right.
By shifting their processes into a more technology-driven framework, a principle known as reskilling will be required. Reskilling takes the experience of employees and applies their abilities to optimizing the implementation of technology like robots and AI powered automation. This creates a dynamic in which humans will work alongside the technology that will enable manufacturers to cope with increasing retirement rates and growing skills gaps.
Reskilling brings its own challenges to which manufacturers will need to adapt, but doing so can be a win-win as the labor market tightens and intelligently implemented technology will be key to staying competitive.