By Alexei Cora
Businesses around the world are sounding the alarm as the workforce struggles to meet industry demands. In America, the broken domestic supply chain is caused in large part by the shortage of labor. It’s only getting worse: the Labor Department reports that there are 5.5 million more job openings than there are workers available, and it may continue this way for the foreseeable future.
Many workers have continuously expressed a fear that the job they have will be eliminated within the next five years as a result of new technology. But with current data, is this truly the case? Let’s take a closer look below.
The automation industry
Job anxiety is valid when we recognize how the workforce has slowly become more dependent on automation. The market size for global industrial automation is expected to reach $395.09 billion by 2029. In America, manufacturing represented 82.3% of industrial robot installations.
This is no surprise, given how studies consistently show that productivity can increase and work hours reduced by automating at least 64% of manufacturing tasks. As the industry shifts towards automation, demand for tech skills is expected to skyrocket by 2030.
This push is manifested in many ways. Software developers are reading up on coding frameworks, and more computer programmers are focusing on AI, in the anticipation that AI and automation may soon take the place of 800 million workers worldwide. Despite the threat, there are also certain things that automation can’t do, and companies must learn to balance automation with human skills.
Importance of human labor
At first glance, it is easy to assume that automation will entirely replace humans. However, the World Economic Forum begs to differ. Machines are only tools, and using robots to do repetitive tasks actually frees up human workers to supervise and manage the automation. By working alongside these machines, just as we have always collaborated with more traditional tools, up to 133 million new jobs could be created.
This is because machines are better at mechanical skills, but there are certain human traits like empathy or flexibility that they cannot mimic. Hence, real workers are needed because they perform roles that automation can’t. Herein lies the problem: technology used to be for competitive advantage, but current labor shortages have transformed automation into a necessity.
In lieu of insufficient technology, firms will attempt to introduce better machines and take the shortage of workers as motivation for automation. With the lack of balance between automation and human labor, however, we could be expecting longer term consequences to our labor force in the future.
What can be done
To avoid these conflicts, the reason for labor shortages must be addressed. The number of American workers who quit their jobs in recent years has resulted in one of the largest American labor movements in recent history, with workers citing demands of higher pay and better working conditions. Replacing humans with automation will not be sustainable in the long run unless we address these conditions and reframe the discourse around how we use automation.
Ease the workforce’s mentality by taking the time to explain how the benefits of automation extend to them as well. Take our AAP Automation as an example. By allowing consumers to get ISO standard products online, the AAP team is freed from rote transactions and is trained instead as applications engineers to help implement the system created.
Automation should be seen as something that can augment the roles of a human workforce, not replace it. This will allow us to grow alongside technology and maximize its use, leading to a more efficient and productive future for mankind.