Writing every day means I rarely get around to penning a blog. It normally takes something really annoying to spur my inner creativity and give me the push to put down my thoughts on a different medium other than twitter.
One such occasion happened over the weekend. Whilst trawling the latest news on the mighty Wolverhampton Wanderers and the latest Trump crisis, I came across some blistering insight from an independent business economist, his words not mine.
I think we’re all a little bit tired of economists who sit in their ivory towers and push out their ‘considered’ thoughts on the latest trends, most of which they have very little knowledge of.
This particular tweet talked about the bad job news from JLR and Ford and then seamlessly decided to bring in the spectre of automation and how it will decimate jobs in manufacturing.
Well that’s news to me and possibly most of industry. Yes, there’s no doubt there will be displacement from the rise of robots, AI and technologies born out of data, but not to the extreme levels this commentator was speculating on.
Better still, the ‘march of the robots’ should actually have a positive effect on moving people from low-paid, low-skilled jobs to positions that offer better pay and better opportunities.
This isn’t speculation. I’ve actually seen it with my own eyes. Encouragingly, this is not just at the big manufacturing juggernauts, but across SMEs who understand that they have to move with the times in order to succeed and remain globally competitive.
That I think is the point. Yes, the 4th Industrial Revolution poses challenges. Of course it does, no industry ever stays the same and, if it dares to, you can put money on it not being there in the future.
UK manufacturing has made its choice. We have to invest in automation and we have to invest in being more productive. Yes, there will be casualties along the way, but nowhere near as many casualties than if we refuse to seize the moment and let the rest of the world lead the way.
For all the jobs that could be lost due to robots, there’ll be new positions created…application engineers, data analysts, industrial engineers, even digital media managers, who are often now the focal point of marketing activity for companies.
Then we have to look at the next generation. You can’t open a newspaper/trade magazine without the skills gap being discussed. Do we really think we’re going to attract the brightest minds, without giving them opportunities to learn and become the best in the latest technologies?
That is why embracing automation is vital to UK industry and why companies are underpinning their business strategy with the latest MRP/ERP systems, CNC machine technology, 3D printing, lights-out manufacturing and tapping into new opportunities emerging from the electrification of vehicles.
It’s not going to cause widescale job losses, quite the opposite. It will protect jobs and actually lead to a host of new roles, not to mention helping shape a UK industrial base that is fit for purpose, innovative and world class.
If anything, the rise of automated systems, robots and AI has bigger potential to disrupt the golden boy that is the service sector. You probably won’t hear that in the mainstream media though!