Not Replacing, Not even Displacing - Augmenting!
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The moment someone mentions robots, many instantly feel job insecurity or fear of job loss. Let’s take a quick look at the growth of robotics in an industry that might be familiar to all. Robotics was introduced to the automotive industry in the United States back in 1961 and has expanded massively over the years. According to Allied Market Research, the automotive robotics has generated about $6.63 billion in 2019 and is expected to reach $13.60 billion by 2027.
Compared to 73.8 million registered automobiles back in 1960 roughly 287 million units of vehicles are in operation just within the United States today. Automation using robots played a critical role to meet this growing demand. Robotics in automotive has expanded its application to Cobots (collaborative operating alongside humans) and Robotic Vision (real-time image processing combining 2D and 3D perception). Robots can perform more calibrated activities and AGV-operator free automated guided vehicles for hauling heavy loads in industrial setups, automated welding (performing the traditional spot and arc welding to the advanced friction to complete bodywork and Exoskeleton devices), and wearable robots to carry out various functions with minimal to no effort. The big question is how this translates to the actual job market in the US automotive industry. Simply comparing the numbers throughout the last 10 years, it’s a jump of 35% from 600,000 jobs in 2010 to 910,000 jobs in 2020.
RPA’s Growth in Coming Years
Shifting gears to automation using software, robotic process automation (RPA) market research indicates the current industry size of $1.63 billion will reach $19.53 billion by 2027. More growth is expected in the banking and financial services (BFSI). RPA is well positioned to infuse the needed growth and meet the demands. We are expecting the job market in these segments to see a 35-40% increase over the next 6-7 years. The key factors driving this massive growth is the need for increasing the efficiency and reducing the overall operational cost.
Still, the big question remains: how will RPA affect the job market?
Replace vs. Augment
While there would be few functions that might have direct impact due to the automation – especially the lower skilled jobs – we expect the projected growth in the job market with the medium to highly complex skilled jobs specifically. So, for these two segments, RPA will be considered as a critical component in order to increase the productivity of these employees. While they work on the complex activities, automation bots will work to augment and assist them with all their non-critical activities, boosting their overall productivity and doubling their output. Rather than as a threat, automation solutions using RPA is well received by employees to ease them from all the menial activities like scrubbing and uploading data, running reconciliations, generating invoices, processing payments, and sorting documents.
Considering all the benefits that RPA could bring to the table, each employee could potentially have their own personal bot programmed to carry out specific activities and act as a personal assistant. Today, we are already seeing executives in specific industry segments adopting the idea of building their personal bots for reading and sorting emails, building reports, and carrying out specific data analysis. We are soon expecting an increase in the user community for personal robots. The fear of getting replaced or being displaced is not true because industry wide automation through RPA is considered an augmentative approach for scaling growth, not as a downsizing effort. As organizations go through the automation journey, it is important for management to communicate the overall objective and goal for the automation initiative and involve the teams at the very early stage. It is also imperative to set the expectations because organizations will now seek more creative tasks out of them than those low skilled repetitive work. This leads to an important topic of reskilling the workforce and the increasing need to do so.
The Department of Labor estimates an increasing demand for computing related jobs, roughly 4 million jobs, by 2028, and 83% of them could go unfulfilled if reskilling and upskilling is not adopted at scale. Given that advanced automation using artificial intelligence and machine learning is the way industry 4.0 will be progressing and growing, organizations have the key responsibility to upskill and reskill their workforce to be resilient in the new age. ILO says, “Governments, workers, education institutions and employers have ‘complementary responsibilities’ in building an effective and appropriately financed lifelong learning eco-system.”