Getting Employees On Board With Automation

Executive Summary

  • A new report has estimated that by 2030 9 UK areas could ‘lose’ more than a quarter of jobs to automation.
  • However; these jobs are set to be displaced rather than lost, with new higher-skilled and higher paid positions replacing them.
  • The job risk of automation is no different to what it was 100 years ago.
  • Britain must adopt, or face losing business to those who do.


We at Exmos are of course very much interested in the goings on in the Industrial space, and there were some intriguing reports about automation released this week that caught our not-so-robotic eyes.

The BBC ran a report this week that stated, “Workers in northern England and the Midlands are most at risk of losing their jobs to robots”. This perhaps worrying article for many workers comes from a report written by the Centre for Cities, and the report also reveals that in the 9 worst hit areas of the UK more than 1 in 4 could lose their jobs to automation. In another report published in November of last year, automation was forecasted to equate to 800 million job losses.

Of course, robots and automation are hot topics, not only in the UK, but on a global level. For the first time in a long time, manufacturing finds itself at the cutting edge of change. We’re working with manufacturers who are actively talking about the power that can be leveraged by taking full advantage of the Industrial Internet of Things and bridging the gap between the business IT and the factory Operational Technology.

Things are changing rapidly, but it shouldn’t be viewed as a negative by your workforce. Automation is happening, and it’s true the jobs of today won’t be the jobs of tomorrow. There are opportunities both for the business and for your staff that are there to be grasped.

If you’re brave enough.


The Automation Impact

First, let’s dive into the Centre for Cities Outlook 2018 report where these figures have come from.

The primary insight of the report looks at the North/South divide, with cities in the South expecting a far lesser impact on jobs to automation than those in the North. Mansfield, Sunderland and Wakefield are the worst hit at 29% job displacement due to automation, with another 6 Northern cities looking at over 25% of jobs being lost by 2030. These jobs are across the employment spectrum, not just in manufacturing.

In contrasting reports, the government’s Industrial Strategy from last year references a recent study that forecasts a net total of 80,000 new jobs per year across a population similar to the UK by introducing digital technologies like AI.

As you can see, the impact is widespread, but it’s not all bad news.


Automation 100 Years Ago

An interesting angle in this report is the analysis of data from 1911, which finds that “Cities are no more at risk of automation today than they were a hundred years ago”;

“Data from 1911 suggests that, in aggregate, a number of occupations that employed many people a century ago have almost disappeared as a result of machines. For example, laundry workers have mostly been replaced by washing machines and demand for domestic servants has fallen with the rise of electrical domestic appliances. Automation and innovation have also changed the way people shop, and the creation of large supermarkets means that street sellers in city centres or milk floats gliding down residential streets at dawn are a rare sight today.”                                                                  

Centre for Cities, Cities Outlook 2018

So, we can see that the challenges around automation aren’t as fresh as many might believe.


Technology in the Factories of the Future

We’re not saying this is going to be an easy ride.

Employment trends are evolving into something far from the job-for-life that previous generations experienced, and today’s workers are likely to work in several varying fields before retirement.

In order to take full advantage of technologies such as automation, AI, robotics and machine learning, there needs to be a large effort in training and retraining the employees that will be able to work with and operate these new technologies.

Automation at the end of the day should be designed to let employees work more efficiently and should free up their time to work on more complex and creative projects of higher value. Chances are the tasks you’re looking at automating are the ones staff are most tired of doing repetitively anyway. By involving your team from day one with any automation projects, your team should understand this to a greater level, and with this comes an increased level of buy-in.

 "The truth of the matter is Britain is behind in its Industry 4.0 adoption, but not by much.   If we fail, jobs will be lost forever because of lost business, not because of automation."


We Need to Have Open Discussions

Everyone needs to understand why doing nothing in manufacturing isn’t an option.

The truth of the matter is Britain is behind in its Industry 4.0 adoption, but not by much. If we fail, jobs will be lost forever because of lost business, not because of automation.

Workforce engagement is crucial in managing the transition and this will be difficult, mainly due to the break-neck speed at which automation will have to happen. There are challenges for us all here. Government, Industry and technology providers like Exmos will all have to work in collaboration to take advantage of the changes that are around the corner.

Posted by Jordan Maciver on Friday, February 2, 2018



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