Automation is a terminology that refers to the replacement of manual processes with electronic devices and computer-controlled devices. For example, replace manual typewriters, file cabinets and office paper appointment books with computer applications.
What is automation?
Automation is the use of computer-controlled electronics and devices to take over the control of processes. The goal of automation is to enhance efficiency and reliability. But in most cases, automation replaces employment. In fact, today’s economists fear that new technology will eventually raise unemployment significantly.
In many manufacturing plants today, automated assembly lines automatically perform the jobs humans used to do. The term “manufacturing” refers to the conversion of raw materials and components into large-scale finished goods in the factory usually.
Automation includes many key elements, systems and functions in almost all industries. They are particularly visible in manufacturing, transport, utility operations and utilities (water and electricity). In addition, national defence systems are becoming increasingly automated such as air defence systems and national border control systems.
Automation exists today in all functions within the industry including integration, installation, procurement, maintenance and even marketing and sales.
Over the past 40 years, information technology has changed the entire office environment. Functions such as communication, documentation, correspondence and deposit have become fully automated. Today’s offices look very different from in the 1950s.
If we can travel in the time machine to the 1950s, the piles of paper will surprise us. The regular office was full of materials and equipment such as folders full of paper documents, calculators, phone books, staplers, daily notes and subsequent notes. There was also duct tape, pens and even maps and paper atlases.
While some traditional office workers still retain a number of these elements in their offices, technology and automation have eliminated the need for most of them. How many of us today use a map made of paper to find trends compared to thirty years ago?
Automation and flexible work
Technology has moved most office workers from a fixed routine of work from 9 am to 5 pm to flexible work. Thanks to the Internet, electronic cloud, laptops, tablets and smart phones, we can now work from anywhere. We can not only work wherever we want, but also whenever we want.
This flexibility means that people are now better able to manage their work-life balance. However, we now have a new problem. We can’t stop working completely anymore.
Bank branches had a lot of employees and customers. Today, fewer of us are doing our banking work in a way within a branch. We now do most of our online banking services or by talking to robots on the phone.
Even if we go to the bank branch, most of them are full of machines and technology inside. These modern machines allow us to complete our banking tasks.
In fact, most of us can easily cope without having to meet a human banker face to face.
Professor Henrik Christensen, of the University of California San Diego Contextual Robotics Institute, believes children born today will never drive cars. Driverless cars will be everywhere. A large number of human-accompanying robots are also expected to serve as health care and home companions.
Automation in the manufacturing environment
Manufacturing has undergone dramatic changes over the past few decades. Manufacturing employment in developed economies has declined significantly.
In 1996, fourteen percent of the U.S. workforce worked in manufacturing, compared to just 8% today. This was a big decline in just two decades! Who knows what the percentage will be in two decades.
Not all these functions have disappeared due to automation. But some jobs have shifted abroad to countries with cheaper labour costs. However, a large proportion of this loss was due to automation.
Experts say the rate of decline in manufacturing employment will not slow. In fact, most predict that the problem will increase gradually and faster.
There is growing concern that only those with specialized qualifications will get jobs in the future. Perhaps skilled artists, talented musicians and others with talents admired by humans will be busy. However, what will happen to the rest of the population is like guessing anyone of us who knows nothing for sure.
Moshe Vardy warns that more than 50% of the world’s workforce will be unemployed in 30 years due to automation. Professor Vardy is a professor of computer engineering in the Department of Computer Science at Rice University.
Robots and other technologies not only replace workers in manufacturing, but also in teaching. The number of online courses that run automatically has increased over the past decade. By 2030, up to 861,000 jobs in the UK public sector could be automated, according to the Deloitte and Reform report. Not only will this reduce the wage bill by £17 billion, but it will also reduce the workforce by 16%.