Will Industry 4.0 and automation take away human jobs and give them ALL to an army of robots?

The answer to this question is truthfully yes AND no. There will be tasks more efficiently done by automation and this will take over some jobs, but this is not the whole story. According to Manufacturing Global "The working environment is going to become far more demanding and it is going to require far more flexible workers who are well trained and are able to cope with the changing nature of this new, uncertain business world."

In materials handling, manufacturing, and many more industrial sectors, we see the rise of the connected operator: the human worker who is connected to and augmented by technology. This connected operator is the foundational human role of Industry 4.0 and will only proliferate as robotics assist humans to complete tasks. According to MHL, the amount of human materials handling jobs has increased by 90% since 2000, and is expected to increase by 20% in the next ten years. This is in part due to the rise of e-commerce and demand for goods delivered to our doorsteps in a matter of hours. Manufacturing and logistics enterprises continue to grow in size and are faced with new models of blending technology and human capital. While human jobs will continue to proliferate- they will change in terms of skills needed. In addition to standard vocational skills, workers will need to master new fields and form factors like wearables, 3D printing, IoT, predictive analytics, and virtual reality. Computer science based knowledge of predictive algorithms, robotics and machine learning will also become essential knowledge within the industrial floor. While newer, more advanced jobs will created the reality still stands that automation will eliminate some jobs.

Aren’t There Fully Autonomous Facilities Now?

Yes- relatively few.

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While the likes of Amazon, Kroger, and Tesla can utilize heavy capital resources to autonomous facilities, the overwhelming majority of Fortune 500 enterprises and SMB’s will continue to rely on a balanced blend of human workforces and efficient technology solutions to connect skilled people to automated systems. The cost of automated systems is too high to adopt at scale for smaller enterprises and hybrid systems will create efficiencies in the market for the majority of enterprises to maintain growth and productivity. While fully autonomous industrial facilities enable immense productivity gains, we’ve seen the problem of having no human safeguards if machines fail and no people are around to fix the issues. Unforeseen issues in Tesla’s Model 3 factories in 2018 slowed production as fully robotic systems could not adapt to failures without human intervention. Overestimating such abilities of robotics can lead to overall productivity losses without the adaptive intelligence of humankind.

Where do we go from here?

Onward and Upward.

As business leaders and innovators, it is up to us to explore innovative solutions that advance humankind and enhance the future of work, allowing people and automation to work seamlessly together. With wearable technology platforms that provide the link to automation data, our workforces will be empowered with heightened productivity, safety, awareness, and job performance. Contact us to learn more about the superhuman connected operator!