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The Rise of Automation is a necessity not a choice

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by Startacus Admin

Here, Chris Unwin, CEO at LAC Conveyors and Automation explains how these developments in technology can be used to address the skills and labour shortage across a number of sectors.

Automation has received mixed reviews from businesses in recent times; often depending on the type of organisation you are speaking to and the level of seniority of the individual being questioned.

For some people, the term ‘automation’ is synonymous with job losses and the idea of “humans being replaced by machines”, while for business leaders or operations Automation managers, it is a way of streamlining the completion of work and raising standards of work to a more consistent level - absent of human error.

While there are no doubt cases where automated solutions have meant that businesses require fewer physical members of staff to perform certain roles - think checkout staff and the introduction of self service machines in supermarkets - there are also cases on the flipside where automation is a necessity. Here, Chris Unwin, CEO at LAC Conveyors and Automation explains how these developments in technology can be used to address the skills and labour shortage across a number of sectors.

Making the decision to employ automation within a business must be carefully considered before any action is taken - not only can it require a high level of financial investment - business leaders must think about the ethical implications too. Existing staff should be made to feel that these types of solutions are being brought in to improve working conditions for them and help them to deliver an even better standard of work, as opposed to replacing them.

Automation It’s human nature to feel hostile when our job security is perceived to be under threat, so in order to get your employees on board with the idea of automation, you should make it clear how you intend to preserve their jobs. Or if you will have to make cuts, be sure to give plenty of notice and, if possible, offer training opportunities for any new roles generated by the introduction of automated processes.

Addressing the shortage of labour

Automation is often introduced into businesses as a response to a skills shortage in the industry, or a lack of interest from humans in performing essential but menial tasks. For example, in one case that we recently encountered, a company advertised jobs for contract labourers to help pack grapes. There were 60 jobs to fill but the company received less than 60% of the required amount of people so they had little choice but to turn to an automated solution to fix the problem.

Indeed while the UK might have been a largely production-based country a few decades ago, there has been a shift in skills towards a service-based approach to business. With the number of young people attending university increasing every year, fewer people are now taking advantage of apprenticeships to learn the practical skills needed in different industries.

In the past someone who was technically minded may have decided to learn a craft such as welding, they’re now more likely to go on to higher education and study a subject such as engineering or robotics for improved job prospects. This shift from practical to theoretical education has meant that young people entering the workforce now desire and are more prepared for managerial work, oftentimes programming the machines which do tasks that were previously a human undertaking.

Creating a 24-hour manufacturing chain

We now live in a society that is fuelled by instant gratification. People can order products to their door simply with the click of a button, so businesses have had to resort to Automation automation to keep up with this demand. A 24-hour manufacturing chain is often the only way to produce the volume of goods required by customers. Automating this process also means that companies aren’t at risk of overworking employees, as production can continue long after their human workforce has gone home for the night.

This should ultimately make the company more profitable and therefore able to offer its human employees better compensation for the work they do, which should arguably be more stimulating and challenging.

The warehouse floor has always been a dangerous environment for employees, with various hazards present at all times. Some of the most common causes of workplace accidents are lifting, carrying, falling, and being struck by moving objects. Introducing robotics to, for example, an assembly line significantly decreases the likelihood of workers being injured in this way through reduced exposure to a range of hazards. In fact, the rate of self-reported workplace injuries has been on a steady decline over the past couple of decades as businesses have increasingly embraced automation to manage the more dangerous aspects of work.

Ultimately, although automation is often viewed as just a cost-cutting method, it is almost always introduced out of necessity to ensure a business stays competitive, to keep up with increased demand, or to improve working conditions. Though a knee-jerk reaction to automation can often be negative, it’s worth considering the positive impact it can have too.  

Chris Unwin is founder and CEO at LAC Conveyors and Automation, a Nottingham-based conveyor and automation system manufacturer and installer. Over the last ten years, L.A.C have grown rapidly to become one of the country's leading and versatile conveyor companies.

If you are interested in automation, you might want to read up on:

Will a robot take my job? - This website will tell you the % chance.

Eliport - innovation in ground-based robotic delivery.

Small Robot Company offers farming through small robots not big tractors.


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Published on: 21st May 2019

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