Automation in the Workplace The MAchine revolution

Glossary
  • A.I.- A program which is used to control the movement of machines.
  • Robot- A machine which is programmed to do a certain task like assembly.
  • Automation- The process by which a company uses machines to do tasks usually done by humans.
Why do companies automate?

Some of the reasons why automation is so alluring to many companies is because it is more accurate and is easier to handle than human workers. The CEO of Hardee’s Andrew Puzder said that “They’re always polite, they always upsell, they never take a vacation, they never show up late, there’s never a slip-and-fall, or an age, sex, or race discrimination case.” Puzder has recently began automating his company using robots and is already experiencing many benefits from using them. James Manyika, the San Francisco-based director of the McKinsey Global Institute stated that some of the benefits of automation are “better, smarter, error-free outcomes, along with innovation, productivity, and growth.” This makes automation very enticing for many companies because of the increase in productivity, product quality and because it avoids scandals which could happen with human employees.

What are some positive effects?

There are many benefits to automation range from decreasing traffic congestion to performing lifesaving surgeries. According to a study done by engineering professor Hesham Rakha “as the number of self-driving cars increases, we can see how the red dots indicating congestion on the screen gradually clears and become green, moving dots.” In his simulation, Rakha demonstrated that by adding more and more automated cars, the congestion in the test decreased. In a different experiment, vice president of the Sheikh Zayed Institute for Pediatric Surgical Innovation Dr. Kim used a robot to perform a surgery and found that “When we compare this to a current surgical standard done by open technique, minimally invasive technique or robot-assisted technique, this robot performed better than experienced surgeons.” Automation has a wide variety of uses and can benefit many people and companies, which is why it is becoming more and more common.

How widespread is automation currently?

Automation is fairly common and can be seen anywhere, from stores to factories to fast food restaurants. UBC economics professor Henry Siu mentioned that “Amazon’s experimentation with robotic stock retrievers during the 2008 global economic downturn that has now permanently replaced its forklift drivers.” Amazon, one of the biggest online stores in America, is now using automated technology on a regular basis to supply its customers with products. A more recent company, Zume Pizza is also automating but to a greater extent. According to the company it plans to “automate the beginning and end of its pizza process—tasks like pressing dough into a circle and topping pizzas with different ingredients.” Even fast food joints are becoming automated and will soon be down to almost no employees. Automation is becoming more and more prevalent in society and companies like Amazon and Zume Pizza will soon become the norm.

Will automation steal jobs?

Many people think that automation in the workplace will displace the human workers and take over their jobs, but that is simply not true and most workers have nothing to fear. In one study done by the McKinsey Global Institute they reported that “less than 5% of jobs are entirely rote and machine replaceable… About 60% of all occupations have at least 30% of constituent activities that could be automated.” So, many jobs can be automated to an extent, but they will not replace humans because almost all require at least some human interaction to remain efficient and very few can be fully automated. When bar-code scanners were introduced into stores, for example, many thought that cashiers would begin losing jobs, but it was found that “their employment grew at an average rate of more than 2 percent between 1980 and 2013.” This means that even if jobs are partially automated, the demand for human workers will still be high as companies continue to grow. In conclusion, automation is not a threat to workers today because most jobs cannot be fully automated and the ones that can be partially automated will still need human workers.

Will automation become more widespread?

Yes, automation will become more widespread as a variety of push and pull factors will cause companies to automate. In a paper published by the Department of Mechanical Engineering of the Rajasthan Technical University some of the listed benefits to automation were “Increasing production by avoiding manual delays, improving productivity by achieving the optimum efficiency of the machine, avoiding reprocessing and improving the productivity.” These benefits make automation a very alluring option for many companies and contribute to the rise in automation. In an interview on automation, executive vice president of advanced production technology at Westinghouse Electric Corp Chester A. Sadlow said that "It's a tough world and we need automation to compete, or we don't automate and we lose jobs to international competition." Other than the pull factors, companies are also being pushed to automation because of international competition. All around the world companies are automating, which puts pressure on the rest because they risk being outcompeted by more productive automated companies. These push and pull factors together will lead to an increase in automation in the future.

Works Cited
  • George, James ManyikaMichael ChuiKaty. "25% of CEOs' Time Is Spent on Tasks Machines Could Do." 25% of CEOs’. Harvard Business Review, 06 Feb. 2017. <https://hbr.org/2017/02/25-percent-of-ceos-time-is-spent-on-tasks-machines-could-do>.
  • Trilling, David. "Robots are taking jobs, but also creating them: Research review." Journalist's Resource. N.p., 15 Feb. 2017.<https://journalistsresource.org/studies/economics/jobs/robots-jobs-automation-artificial-intelligence-research>.
  • Noguchi, Yuki. "Self-Driving Cars Could Ease Our Commutes, But That'll Take A While." NPR. NPR, 10 Feb. 2017. <http://www.npr.org/sections/alltechconsidered/2017/02/10/514091049/self-driving-cars-could-ease-our-commutes-but-thatll-take-a-while?scrlybrkr=060b2698>.
  • Bella, Timothy. "This Robot Performs Surgery Better Than Your Doctor." Men's Health. N.p., 16 Feb. 2017. <http://www.menshealth.com/health/robot-surgeon?scrlybrkr=22761b8c>.
  • Kessler, Sarah. "An automated pizza company models how robot workers can create jobs for humans." Quartz. Quartz, 10 Jan. 2017. <https://qz.com/880283/zume-pizza-models-how-robot-workers-can-create-jobs-for-humans>
  • Michael Chui, James Manyika, and Mehdi Miremadi. "Where machines could replace humans--and where they can't (yet)." McKinsey & Company. N.p., n.d. <http://www.mckinsey.com/business-functions/digital-mckinsey/our-insights/where-machines-could-replace-humans-and-where-they-cant-yet?scrlybrkr=0e7978dc>.
  • Wolff-Mann, Ethan. "51% of all job tasks could be automated by today's technology." Yahoo! News. Yahoo!, 24 Jan. 2017. <http://finance.yahoo.com/news/51-of-all-job-tasks-could-be-automated-by-todays-technology-135331964.html>.

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