The accelerating automation of production has been controversial for a long time. Many people are concerned that machines’ development will increase unemployment in the long term. What is the real impact of automation on the labour market?

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The effects of automation in manufacturing

Automation has a huge impact on everyone’s life. We encounter it at almost every turn. Today, vending machines sell us tickets and food. Even in ordinary shops, we increasingly see automated self-service checkouts. While most of us are enthusiastic about such changes, few consider the social effects of automation.

The impact of automation can be seen wherever a machine can easily do activities that were previously performed by a human being. Machines frequently perform tasks that are too heavy or monotonous for humans or require precision and repetition that humans cannot achieve.

Although the effects of automation can be seen everywhere, the greatest impact is on industry and production in the broadest sense of the term. The activities most susceptible to automation typically involve repetitive physical work, i.e. machine operation (loading and unloading), packaging and the flow and storage of finished products. 

Due to their repetitive and monotonous nature, these types of activities can be easily automated. Processes of this type, depending on their specific characteristics, can be automated only at certain stages or completely.

Does automation mean bad news for workers?

Given the speed and intensity of its development, many experts are wondering how automation will affect jobs. Are we really in danger of technological unemployment due to the massive replacement of workers by machines? Given how efficient and accurate machines are and the fact that they never get tired, this vision seems likely, but it is important to be aware that one of the effects of automation is also the creation of new jobs.

According to 2019 statistics, as many as 87% of Polish employers declare that the number of jobs will be maintained or even increased, given the impact of automation on employment. As we mentioned above, many experts believe that automation will force the creation of entirely new jobs. They also present automation as an opportunity to improve skills among lower-level production workers.

Why the impact of automation on increasing skills? For a machine to function, it needs to be correctly programmed and serviced at the operational stage. This is where experts see opportunities for employee development. New jobs may also result from the economic growth brought about by the automation of production.

Of course, there are also sceptics who claim that one consequence of using automation to improve production is the loss of many jobs that new ones will not replace. This implies the aforementioned vision of so-called technological unemployment, brought about by technological progress. This term implies the replacement of human workers with machines due to greater productivity and, therefore, greater profit for the company.

This vision, although definitely less optimistic, seems far more realistic than one in which the impact of automation on employment is small and really only results in the redirection of employees to other jobs. Manufacturers are, and will continue to be, keen to take advantage of opportunities to automate the simplest of tasks. This is influenced by the ever-lower cost of purchasing and implementing robotic solutions and rising labour costs.

Despite this, there is no doubt that some people who may lose their jobs due to automation can count on another job being created due to the automation of their previous workstations. As we mentioned earlier, even the most autonomous machines require commissioning, servicing and usually some human supervision. But will every employee who loses their job because of machines be able to count on a new job? Unfortunately, this isn’t easy to believe.

Automation and employment – how to prepare for it

It is important to be aware that automation replacing jobs will certainly not be a sudden phenomenon that will strike overnight. It is a process that is extended over time, which gives employees time to prepare for the transition by upgrading their skills so that they will be ready for the inevitable changes that await them in the future.

The impact of automation on education and the education of future generations is also important. In order for the negative social effects of automation to be felt as little as possible, it is essential that the bodies educating the future workforce keep pace with the changes in the industry. They should offer the opportunity to acquire knowledge and qualifications that employers will highly seek in the future. 

Most Polish employers are already declaring their readiness to introduce automation, or have even started the process at this point. The pandemic has further made companies realise that machines, unlike humans, are insensitive to such anomalies and turbulence, further accelerating the process of automating production.

The impact of automation on employment – summary

Certainly, the automation of production has a considerable impact on increasing its efficiency and accuracy, which, as a consequence, has a direct impact on increasing the profits of manufacturers. However, it is worth bearing in mind the other side of the coin and the impact that automation has on the labour market. Most experts agree on this point: the impact of automation on employment will be rather negative.

How we get through the upcoming changes in the labour market depends largely on us and how we prepare for them. If employees continuously improve their competence and treat the upcoming changes as an opportunity, they will certainly find their place in the new, transformed labour market. 

It is important that education keeps pace with the changes, enabling the future workforce to acquire the right skills and qualifications. These will ensure that school leavers are prepared for the new realities of the labour market and are attractive to employers.

If you are looking for new solutions to automate the production process in your company, we invite you to contact Unilogo. On our website, you will find a special contact form that will allow you to get in touch with our specialists. They will certainly answer all your questions, dispel your doubts and help you choose a convenient solution.