In one of our last articles, we mentioned the possibility of robots taking the place of human jobs. Specifically, technology is already replacing humans in doing repetitive tasks in major industries like manufacturing, transportation, logistics, etc. The Industry 4.0 era is at the beginning. Repetitive, low-wage jobs are the first ones to be replaced, but what will happen in the not-so-far future? Will other jobs that require more complex analytical skills and creativity are to be taken over too?
With a new Industrial Revolution, changes are inevitable.
Today, technology or robots are productive assistants to humans. Nonetheless, the capability of technology is endless. Disruptive technology brings about changes in the workforce. Manual jobs will be replaced, while new kinds of jobs will be created. In the near future, technologies (AI, machine learning, and software automation applications) would no longer primarily impact low-wage, uneducated workers, but would also increasingly enable computers to fulfill jobs that require significant training and education, according to Ford, 2009.
A study by Frey and Osborne indicates that in the case of low-wage, uneducated workers, 47 percent of US jobs are exposed to the risk of becoming redundant through computerization. Technological progress is relentless, and machines and computers would eventually approach the point where they would match or exceed the average worker’s ability to perform most routine work tasks. This is not a potential replacement anymore, as factories everywhere are employing more robots than humans. Ford (2009) also mentioned that highly skilled jobs would also be threatened by machines and software algorithms performing sophisticated and decision making tasks. As technology can excel human in data analytics and mathematical solving, it can and will replace jobs in that aspect. Tasks that can take human hours to do, technology can do it even better in a few seconds. The gap is huge, leading to highly productive works brought about by technology.
In the new Industrial Revolution, new jobs will emerge. The introduction of cyber-physical systems would require a significant amount of additional employees with specialized technical expertise. This context significantly requires the growing importance of IT and programming skills for employees. In his research, Hirsch-Kreinsen has analyzed the consequences of Industry 4.0 on operational, indirect, and management tasks and activities and found that on the operational working level, lower-skilled jobs containing simple and repetitive activities would be replaced to a large extent by intelligent cyber-physical systems. On the indirect and management working level, complex processes consisting of many integrated tasks (such as quality assurance and maintenance) would likely be subject to further automation. This increases the demand for cross-functional management control, resulting in more job enrichment (more jobs at management level are created). However, the decentralization in decision and planning processes is also an impact by technology. New technologies will fulfill simple and repetitive activities. While advancements can help to create different types of jobs, when it comes to the new professions, automation has the potential to take away more jobs than it will create. According to McKinsey & Co., by 2025, digitization is expected to contribute $2 trillion to US GDP—and displace up to 12 million middle-skill workers.
What should the workforce do?
Çağlayan Arkan, General Manager of Worldwide Manufacturing & Resources at Microsoft holds a positive look on the future of the workforce: “There has never been a more exciting time to be part of the future of the workforce, as the workplace has evolved to a highly technologically advanced environment. Employees need to understand what the new professions are and seek out those roles through things like continuing or advanced education. Employees have the opportunity to focus their contributions more around digital, intelligence and technology-focused types of roles. It is almost a sure bet that those who acquire these new skills will be gainfully employed.”
1. Keep up with the trends
Advancement in technology can lead to higher productivity, but also less human need. Technology is already replacing humans in logistics. You can see an automated warehouse by e-commerce giants like Amazon, Alibaba. The automated vehicle, robotic delivery, etc, are also being developed, tested. However, technology is always changing. In a few years, that automation may become the norm in this industry, giving way for new trends to rise. Therefore, it is important for the workforce to be dynamic in the same way. Management should proactively approach supply chain management by always seeking out new trends, new technology to maximize productivity, while lower-level workforce should follow up with the trend to make sure that their jobs are not at the risk of being replaced by technology.
2. Focus on learning and adapting
Looking to the opportunity ahead, we must reflect back that this kind of massive disruption on the workforce has happened before. If we go back to 1870, almost 50 percent of the US population was employed in agriculture; as of 2008, less than two percent of the population was directly employed. What happened was that the industry adapted and evolved. As the economy moved from agriculture to industrial, new jobs were developed; new skill-sets were identified; new professions were created; and new opportunities were identified for innovation, growth, and prosperity. In the Industry 4.0, jobs related to technology are prioritized. The workforce must not sit still and be left behind. The workers of the new era must continue to learn along with the trend. Management must focus on training employees working with new technology and practices.
3. Leverage the advanced software to assist daily operations
Transportation Management System, Warehouse Management System, Route Optimization software, Order Management System, Big Data Analytics software, and many more are the easiest way to obtain Industry 4.0 technology and bring betterment to your business. Each type of software is built to serve specific needs and problems in logistics. Advanced software can also comprehend, manage data and information to assist people with making data-driven decisions. The job of the workforce is to identify the niches in the business that need improvement by technology. For example, last-mile delivery may take up to 28% of total logistics cost with its poor route planning, lack of real-time progress update, and no communication with customers. To solve that problem, companies can seek solutions like TMS, Route Optimization Software. Abivin vRoute is software like that, integrating Industry 4.0 technology including IoT, Machine Learning, Advanced Algorithm to solve Vehicle Routing Problem, and digitize the delivery process.