Today, how process automation may cause people to be laid off and how robots can take over human responsibilities are hot topics. Automation plans are also affecting the TSL industry. Are there serious reasons for concern? Will automation be a job killer?
According to Maciej Tyburczy, Head of the Lean & Process Management Division from the AsstrA-Associated Traffic AG international transport and logistics group, when predicting what might happen in the near future there are several factors to be considered: how the nature of work is evolving, technological development, and internal changes within companies. Robotics and human jobs can not be assessed from one point of view only.
How is modern work evolving?
Our grandparents worked in one company all their life. Today’s young people, however, switch jobs far more often. Statistically, a young person will work in a dozen or so companies over their lifetime. Remote working and simultaneously contracting with several different companies are also more common. This is a completely different professional work environment. Moreover, we can not forget about people who work while traveling.
And the nature of work will continue to change. To succeed in today’s labor market we have to adapt to new ways of earning money and a variety of workplaces. It is necessary to constantly increase our competence, knowledge, and experience.
Finding a job should not be a problem for a person who can accept and adjust to the new face of work.
Many people fear technological advances.
Technology is progressing and nobody will stop it. It is possible to transport goods and exchange information in new ways, and boring, repetitive tasks can be assigned to robots. Thanks to this, a person can focus on more important tasks, for example, on direct customer relationships or complex, strategic business decisions. People still need to handle these creative, riskier parts of the job. A robot can suggest and advise but real decisions must be made by a person.
Robotic technology can support us and increase our effectiveness. But even at highly automated companies someone still needs to manage the organization, program the robots, fix errors, etc.
Technology supports and will continue to support human activities. Consider computers, for example. They are technologically advanced but will do nothing without a human.
What changes, therefore, should take place in companies?
To be successful, companies must look for ways to increase efficiency. Even just 50 years ago, the analyses supporting sales growth were nowhere near as complex as today. Modern competitors need to know how to use social networking sites, for example, and companies must constantly be on the lookout for new advantages.
If everyone is already doing something, then it isn’t an advantage. It is necessary to look further. Lean Management is such a new advantage. But will introducing Lean be enough? Maybe for a short period of time, yes. But in a few years it may be not enough.
That doesn’t mean Lean solutions should be skipped altogether. They should be implemented as a first step in an ongoing program that ultimately results in automated business processes. But before being even partially automated, those business processes must first be analyzed and simplified as much as possible.
Does this approach necessarily lead to layoffs? I do not think so. Everything depends on the company's strategy, not just on whether a company is using robots. The optimal strategy is usually to keep existing teams – not replace them – and assign higher-value responsibilities to them. It is more cost-effective to continue working with people you know than bring in outsiders who need time to learn how the company works, etc. It is also worth remembering that someone will have to manage robots, program them, and fix their problems. People will need to handle these tasks.
The use of robots will increase the efficiency of employees. They can do more at the same time. Taking into account the shortage of staff in the TSL industry, robotics is a great solution. A company does not have to change its approach to employment but rather use robots for selected processes and adjust staff around them accordingly. Organizational efficiency goes up and nobody loses their job.
Nowadays we hear more and more about self-propelled trucks in the TSL industry and about fears that drivers will lose their jobs. However businesses need real solutions to problems like driver shortages. That is why the nature of work will evolve. For example, imagine that a driver could handle several trucks at once using a virtual reality headset in an office. That would help solve this human resource challenge.
Similar concepts will continue to emerge. Robots will help us do monotonous tasks better and will allow us to increase productivity in situations when there are not enough hands available to work. That's why I think that we live in very interesting times full of ever faster changes. We have to accept this reality and find our place in it.