If you have a job in the manufacturing industry, the headlines about job loss due to technical advancements—the automation of processes that used to be people driven—can be alarming.
In fact, according to one study by two Ball State University professors, between 2000 and 2010, about 87% of manufacturing job losses stemmed from factories becoming more efficient. The efficiency in factories, usually a good thing, was the result of automation and better technology. (The other 13% of job losses were due to trade.)
As the CEO of Pacesetter, I understand that the statistics read like “I’m about to lose my job!” to many in manufacturing.
The fact is, automation is here to stay—especially in the manufacturing industry. That doesn’t have to be a bad thing, because smart leaders can use advanced technology to support and empower existing staff instead of replacing them.
This is best done, in my experience, by always keeping your associates in mind when considering introducing new technology.
What will your staff need in order to succeed? Training? Absolutely. Reassurance that this is technology that augments their job, rather than replaces them in their job? Probably.
Explain the reason for the new method and accompanying technology and keep it focused on the job, and the person in the job, not just the bottom line.
We all need to get on board with the fact that automation is not a villain when used properly. Anything that can get automated should, especially where it reduces errors and increases efficiencies. From my perspective, automation does not reduce jobs, it gives individuals in our organization the time to be more strategic and provide more value to our customers. We have talented people who can’t always use their skillsets to the fullest because they get caught up doing grunt work that could be streamlined through automation.
Automation can also allow a company to grow without adding unnecessary overhead, improving our bottom line and allowing us to reward our team through profit sharing and the like. Pacesetter’s team knows that streamlining through automation benefits them as individuals, not just the company!
The new generation of collaborative robots is an excellent example of technology designed to work alongside humans, literally. The robotic technology being developed keeps in mind that there are people on the floor—so the robots are smaller, lighter, safer (no huge swinging arms) and adaptable.
Collaborative robots are often used in the assembly phase of a project so they may not be an exact match for your industry.
Which brings up a great way to include and reassure existing staff: ask them what technology they’d like to see you bring into the business. They know their jobs, which means they have knowledge you need to make their jobs better, easier, more streamlined or even increase productivity and grow the department.
For instance, at Pacesetter our human resources department (called People Area) has streamlined much of their work by incorporating some useful technology, including one tool that helped evaluate and select our new CFO.
But, they have also made the decision not to use an applicant tracking system. As our People Area Director Justin Philip wrote on our corporate blog, “the algorithms used by ATS are out of date and the filtering systems are poor, prompting applicants tend to stuff their resume with powerful words and tailor their experience in an effort to get passed through the filters. This actually has the opposite of the system’s intended effect, reducing efficiency tremendously.”
Technology is supposed to improve efficiency, not bog down a team of professionals. So, when my HR people tell me “nope, that technology doesn’t work” and can explain why, I’m not going to question them.
Automation, technology, robotics—all of these things are absolutely here to stay. But if you work with your whole team to determine which technologies are the best match for your industry, and keep your associates in the loop (offering training and education as needed), the fear of job loss will transform into excitement about what the future holds.