The Future of Automation

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The nature of work itself is changing. Machines and robots now do work that once used to require teams of individuals and complex assembly lines. However, this transition is not simply restricted to manufacturing roles – a Forrester report on automation predicts that in 2020, over 1 million knowledge-work jobs will be replaced by automation and AI.

What is Automation in Business?

Machines are no longer the simple automatons from yesteryear. Artificial Intelligence (AI) powers the machines of today and advances in robotics and machine learning continue to propel the future of automation forward. Robots are now capable of performing complex tasks with little to no human intervention involved. 

From a positive point of view, work automation will improve connectivity and overall business efficiency. However, automation in the workplace is also about the human factor and it is expected that in the coming decade, machines will replace close to 50% of the workforce. 

Opportunities Automation Creates in Businesses, the Economy, and Society

Businesses need to embrace automation in the future if they want to stay competitive locally and internationally. Added to the question of competition is also one of knowledge. Over the coming decade, many economies around the world are going to see a large contingent of their workforce retire. This loss of knowledge within the workforce can be catastrophic unless steps are taken in advance.

With a younger, tech-savvy, workforce coming to the table, businesses have an opportunity to radically change their culture. If it is understood that the future of work: robots, AI and automation is inevitable, the question becomes how best to prepare the workforce for this new paradigm? 

Digital transformation projects for example are a suitably transformative solution in many organizations. However, governments also need to embrace the future of automation and understand how they can best take advantage of automation and artificial intelligence. When they have a clear understanding that the benefits are not only financial or economic in nature but also societal, they can use the surpluses generated through automation to better improve the lives of their constituents.

The Benefits of Automation

There are many different benefits that companies and governments can realize from implementing automation in the workplace. Here are some of the most important ones:

Rapid Technological Progress

We are all familiar with the image of the robotic arm in a manufacturing plant, but autonomous systems are not restricted to physical machines in this way. Autonomous systems like self-driving vehicles are still a few years away, but they are in an active testing phase within many businesses and jurisdictions. These systems depend on complex AI automation algorithms but other less complex systems like automated grocery check-outs are already in production.

These advances are possible due to the rapid strides seen in AI over recent years, but also the launch of new technologies like 5G and Big Data among others. With the increase in computing power now available and data being gathered at an exponential pace, new improvements and innovations are continuing to come forward at a frantic pace.

Increases in Economic Growth

The benefits of automation are driving increased value throughout businesses. New information has allowed businesses to create products and services that are more personalized and useful than ever before. Work automation systems help companies find problems on the production line and even with specific transactions.

This is however only the tip of the iceberg. As technology continues to advance, the benefits will only snowball in effect. Newer iterations of AI improve classification and estimation techniques through clustering and other methods to find even more value. Current estimates put the value of advanced neural networks between $3.5 – to $5.8 trillion annually.

Tackle Societal Moonshot Challenges

Not all of the benefits being addressed by automation are monetary in nature. Many of the advances with AI and automation are more social in nature and focused on the common good. These societal challenges include using AI in the medical sector to improve research where AI automation for example can better identify diseases based on symptoms and patient records. In fact, some researchers have developed an AI algorithm that can help reduce the diagnosis time by 96% for intracranial hemorrhaging. This has direct, life-saving benefits.

The future of automation is also able to look at something we all seem to care about on an almost daily basis. Namely, the climate and climate science. University researchers are George Washington University are actively using Machine Learning (ML) to better understand current climate models and make new predictions based on real-world conditions.

Automation and the Future of Jobs

Before these benefits can be realized, the impact on the workforce must be understood. With the advances in AI automation over the coming years, close to half of the activities conducted by workers could be impacted. This doesn’t imply that the jobs themselves will vanish, but rather many of the activities within these jobs will be transformed.

The assumption was that automation would impact unskilled labor and while that statement stays true, the impact on the skilled workforce will be significant also. By the end of the decade, it’s expected that almost all occupations will be impacted. Of these, close to 5% will be fully automated by 2030. While this does not sound too alarming, for the remainder 30%-60% of the different job functions within the occupation could also be automated.

 

This change in how and where people work will have far-reaching effects around the world and is expected to impact close to 15% of the worldwide workforce. Depending on how fast companies adopt new AI automation technologies, anywhere from 10 million to 800 million workers could be impacted.

Job Creation and Growth

While the future of automation tends to paint a somewhat bleak picture, there are also new opportunities being created in the job market. New jobs based on newer technology far surpass the jobs lost due to automation in the future. As opportunities within an economy are created due to different catalysts in the market, new jobs naturally follow.

As businesses gain efficiencies through automation, they can create new opportunities that wouldn’t otherwise have been possible. However, often, the way existing jobs are being done now will need to be adjusted. Machines will become a complement to the worker with partial automation becoming the standard. With artificial intelligence automation, machines will assist with simpler, repetitive tasks allowing humans greater autonomy for skilled, thinking roles.

Automation Examples in the Real World

At NIX we’ve discovered that automation is extremely valuable in this trying time. During a pandemic finding a solution to reduce interaction between individuals is essential. Within the restaurant industry, food delivery solutions like the ones we’ve designed are a useful means of enabling this.

However, we’ve discovered that almost any business can be automated in one fashion or another. For example, the platform we built for property management provided landlords with a 360-degree view of their properties. They were better able to grasp the rent situation and also communicate with their tenants in a seamless manner. Besides, with all of the relevant documents and reports available on one platform, it not only improved their efficiency but also made them more productive.

Corporate communication is also often automated nowadays. For example, NIX team created a Salesforce application for Salesforce.com platform users, whose job requires a lot of driving conversations and SMS sending every single day. It could be sales, marketing, support departments, non-profit organizations, etc.

The main ability is to easily connect Salesforce users with customers. The app provides both inbound and outbound SMS, directly integrating within a Salesforce platform, so there is no need in other plug-ins to contact your Salesforce clients.

So, you can see that automation solutions can be implemented in so many different domains. 

Conclusion

Research from Forrester in 2020 has shown that 25% of firms currently lack a plan or strategy to embrace automation within their business. Of the businesses polled, 26% suggested internal problems due to culture or change management are behind the delay, while 25% believe the issue lies with organizational structure, vision, and overall alignment.

If your business falls into this camp, contact us. We understand business automation and can help you realize the efficiencies possible by integrating it into your business and business processes.