With so much talk around the rise of automation and artificial intelligence, it's easy to picture an army of Terminator-style bots in a workplace war. Throw in the number of different research reports claiming the 'rise of the robots' will drive unemployment, and it's no surprise we're worried about safeguarding jobs against our mechanic counterparts.
The not so glamourous reality is that robots are in fact just data driven pieces of software, programmed to do exactly what we tell them. The other reality is robots aren't going to steal our jobs, but actually take away the tedious, manual tasks that we'd rather not spend our time doing anyway!
Recently, the Chief Executive of Siemens UK, Juergen Maier, claimed the likes of robotics, additive manufacturing and AI will deliver better productivity and higher paid jobs, and he's right. By using technology to automate repetitive jobs, we're free to do all of the strategic activities that drive the bottom line.
Rather than waste time doing exactly the same tasks day in, day out, employees can focus on areas of the business that require something robotics can't offer - the human touch. Whether it's thinking up creative ideas, building relationships or even back-to-basics customer service, these are the things that will drive real value to the business. By eliminating some, or even all, of the boring back office processes, businesses can consider where employee strengths lie and make sure they're being used in the right way.
For those claiming certain jobs and professions will be influenced by robotics - you're not wrong, but that still doesn't mean in five years' time an I, Robot look alike is going to be handing you a P45. What it actually means is people's roles will change, making it possible to completely re-invent the 'ideal workplace'. While some jobs will likely become automated, others will be created.
Remember the industrial revolution? The uproar around job losses due to developments in technology isn't a new phase, but a misunderstood one. In the end, not only did productivity rise, but also massive opportunities for jobs were generated all across the UK. We have a love-hate relationship with tech in the workplace - when it's assisting us, it's seen as a friend, and when it could replace us it's seen as foe. However, it's important to remember that its technology that drives the economy forward, and produces innovations like driverless cars and virtual assistants.
With or without the rise of the robots, employment rates will continue to change. Robotics is just another technology that will change the way we work, but as long as we remain fixated on the idea that robots will replace us, the true potential of the technology will continue to be overlooked. It's not a case of every business across the UK simply swapping their human employees for a mass of machines, but about finding the right balance between the two.
There are a number of factors ahead of us that will influence how businesses work, and what that means for employees including next month's General Election, and the wider roll-out of Brexit, but for now, it's business as usual. The robotic revolution has arrived and it's very much here to stay, bringing greater levels of productivity and driving businesses into the 21st Century. The only question is, how likely are we to see Arnie in the manufacturing line?
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