When most people hear the word “automation,” the image of robots taking over the world often comes to mind. Although the first mention of automation can date back to the Ancient Greeks from the stories found in Homer’s Iliad, it wasn’t until centuries later that the idea was conceptualized and brought to life. For instance, manufacturing industries during the Industrial Revolution began automating processes to increase productivity and create high throughput systems. Since then, the use of automation in the workforce has greatly changed over time and has expanded to various applications across all industries.
According to Think Automation, many common items that we use on a daily basis are a result of automation: chatbots like Siri, automatic doors in buildings and smart homes. Oftentimes, we don’t give these things a second thought since they are seamlessly integrated into our everyday lives. This highlights the importance of automation in enabling applications and processes to function in our world.
Today, the use of automation in the workforce is increasing at a rapid rate as our world becomes more technologically advanced. Consequently, this leads to three potential benefits as people adapt to changes in the workforce.
Automation Leads to an Increase in Productivity and Value-Added Tasks
Repetitive, tedious tasks can be automated to enable corporations to focus on more urgent, impactful problems that drive more value in the workplace. Automating processes ultimately eliminates time spent on completing monotonous tasks and provides opportunities for individuals to solve problems that require human intervention and decision making from years of expertise.
For instance, the use of automation is especially useful in scenarios that involve working with large datasets (we’re talking hundreds and thousands of rows of data). Today, there are still many teams in organizations that go over a dataset manually, slice the fields to show certain views, and then copy and paste tables into a separate document to share information with their colleagues. A process like this could potentially take hours to complete! If this process needs to be done on a weekly or monthly basis, then the number of hours spent manually going through rows of data greatly increases. This is where automation can change the game.
Businesses can use robotic process automation tools such as Blue Prism or UiPath, paired with data visualization tools such as Tableau or Power BI, to make powerful automations that manipulate large datasets and display key insights for executives to understand and make effective decisions to drive business value. By using automation tools, individuals can focus on tasks that actually add value to an organization. In turn, this saves many hours of work, decreases operational costs and increases productivity.
Automation Increases Efficiency and Quality of Solutions
Automating tasks enables organizations to eliminate human error, improve accuracy and consistency, and increase efficiency and quality of systems. According to Engineer Live, a benefit of automation is that “robots are highly repeatable and accurate, which can impact product quality.” In other words, a robot can be trained and designed to easily complete repetitive, manual tasks in an efficient amount of time with no errors, as opposed to a human completing those same tasks in a longer amount of time with many possible mistakes.
For example, robotic automation in assembly lines is extremely efficient and ensures that the quality of products created are held at a high standard. These robots improve the accuracy of production since they are not prone to fatigue or errors. Manufacturers often invest in robotic equipment to automate assembly lines for their ability to complete fast and precise actions.
Robotic arms automate an assembly line to create cars. (Image Source: MRP easy)
Automation Creates New Jobs
According to The Washington Post, it is predicted that more than 75 million jobs will be lost to automation by 2022. However, 133 million new jobs will emerge in the same period. As the world becomes increasingly reliant on technology, many current employees must adapt to the times and learn how to use automation tools to improve their work.
The World Economic Forum predicts a shift in the workforce as technologies such as artificial intelligence, machine learning, and automation become increasingly implemented worldwide. According to the podcast series “Futurithmic“, every individual must be proactive in their own lifelong learning in order to stay equipped with the latest skills to succeed in the future. Despite the prediction of millions of jobs being displaced by automation, it opens up a new realm of possibilities to become better acquainted with technology — it encourages individuals to keep up with the times and to continuously learn new skills.
Image Source: Futurithmic
The Road Ahead . . .
Going forward, McKinsey suggests several areas that organizations must address in order to prepare for this technological shift in the workforce: maintaining economic growth to support the creation of jobs, upskilling and training employees to adapt to emerging technologies, and providing income and support to displaced workers.
To prepare for the future, we must dig deeper and think of our own personal goals. We need to hold ourselves accountable for our own learning and continue to keep an open mind. With support from our organizations, we have the ability to continuously improve, learn, and grow amidst a changing workforce.