If you mention the term “automation” in some circles, you might get some positive feedback. In others, you may get some worried head shaking and talk of job losses.
Automation is a contentious issue because it’s happening in so many industries, and it’s virtually unavoidable. It means shedding certain types of jobs, but it also means adding others to the workforce.
Whether you welcome automation or dread it, it is a reality. Let’s look at how it’s changing certain industries, and how it’s going to in the immediate future.
Before we proceed any further, let’s briefly define automation. It means labor-saving technology. It might also mean tech that can function with human assistance, but very little of it.
For instance, you might be talking about field service management software. This is software which might:
Allow humans to monitor facilities without having to be physically present
Inform humans of worksite danger through remote monitoring
Create predictive service models through data analysis
The installation of this type of software might mean that things like car manufacturing plants can now be almost entirely automated. For individuals who used to work on assembly lines, you can see why this might be a frightening concept.
Why So Many Industries Are Trying to Automate
Setting aside potential job losses for a moment, let’s examine why companies and industries want to automate. The reality is that this isn’t a new concept. You can go back to the Industrial Revolution to see examples of it.
At that time, various machinery made its first appearance, including:
The cotton gin
The electric telegraph
The spinning jenny
The steam engine
Many times, the advent of these machines meant cheaper, faster product manufacturing. For instance, machines from this era could make clothing much faster than a human worker.
What’s happening with automation today isn’t much different. Many industries want cheaper, faster labor, and that means job loss to some degree.
Industries Being Most Affected
There is a long industry list where automation is already highly evident, or soon will be. Several companies are conducting experiments with self-driving cars. Their arrival within the next decade or so will mean that taxi companies and rideshare programs might go out of business.
Fast food restaurant jobs might be on the chopping block. Companies are developing robots that can flip burgers, drop french fry vats in hot grease, and do most of the other things that the average Burger King or McDonald’s employee does now.
Vehicle assembly has seen quite a bit of automation, which has led to economic devastation in cities like Detroit, long known as being an American car-making hub.
In short, industries requiring human workers who perform repetitive physical labor are those most likely to feel automation’s impact. This brings up the question of what these individuals are going to do with themselves.
Possible Career Paths for Those Who Lose Their Jobs
There are millions of Americans who work at fast-food restaurants or as retail store cashiers. With automation, it would be no surprise if these types of jobs disappear over the next couple of decades. What is the answer for those who lose these types of positions?
One thing to keep in mind is that the sort of jobs that people do always change. The Industrial Revolution meant job loss, but also new career creation. It’s probable that this current automation wave will mean the same.
Just because someone can no longer work as a cashier doesn’t mean that the machines running the registers won’t require maintenance to keep them functioning. The same goes for the technology that will run most fast food restaurant functions.
Robot and artificial intelligence creation are exciting, but that tech is far from all-knowing. It still requires human caretakers, and that is a career that, presumably, will need many applicants in the years to come.
Many individuals will need some creativity to find new work when jobs dry up from automation. This is an area where government intervention would undoubtedly come in handy.
It might be possible for government bodies to prioritize relocation or new job training for individuals who lose their jobs because of robots or AI. They might provide free or cheap education so that those who lose their positions are better candidates for higher-paying jobs in other industries.
Much is uncertain about automation and job loss. Smart workers will start to come up with alternate plans who know that their positions aren’t likely to last.