Is Industrial Automation A Job Killer?

Jamie shared this video on LinkedIn last week.  He was on-site with a customer and wanted to get footage of Thouzer pulling multiple carts at the same time, but we REALLY lucked out when the tugger showed up in the background of the video.  Check it out!  It's only eleven seconds.

Did you notice the operator's face?  He's actually smiling!  Probably because it's not every day he sees a new AMR or AGV driving around his plant.

I hate to admit it, but when I first saw his reaction I smiled too.  But I was smiling for a different reason.  I was smiling because I thought it was funny that this operator was staring at his replacement and didn't even realize it!

After a split second I corrected myself.

First off, it's not funny to laugh at someone's misfortune.

Secondly, this guy's not going to be standing in the unemployment line any time soon.  If Thouzer AGVs show up in his plant is it possible his job might be impacted in some way?  Sure.  But he's got nothing to worry about and here's why:

1)  Good people are hard to find.  Every manufacturer I've worked with over the past 5+ years is hiring.  The scarcity in the labor market today is real.  If you don't believe me, see for yourself.  Even if this employee's current job role as a tugger operator is reduced or eliminated, he can be reassigned to another role in the same facility.  Companies are using industrial automation as a survival tool, not as a justification to fire people.

2)  Dull, Dirty, and Dangerous jobs are going away.  There are lots of versions of the "Three Ds of Robotization" but this is the one I hear most often.  There are some jobs where people do best and there are some jobs robots do best.  Let the robots do the jobs that are repetitive and require high precision.  Leave the creative thinking jobs for the human operators.  Engaged employees are happy employees.

3)  Industrial automation doesn't happen in a vacuum.  Once a facility has automated several of its processes, who's going to maintain all that equipment?  Who's going to reprogram it when the production line changes?  With industrial automation comes new technology and new opportunity for workers to upskill into more demanding roles.  Higher skilled workers are higher paid workers!

Bottom line, I respect anyone who does a hard day's work.  I really do.  But there aren't just enough people in the job market for manufacturers to accomplish everything they need to.

Automation is coming whether you like it or not, but we'll all be better off for it.  The more a plant automates, the more highly skilled and highly paid its workers will be for doing work that is safer, cleaner, more engaging, and more satisfying.

What automation projects has your plant completed recently?  Leave a comment below and let us know how it went!

I've enjoyed working with technology ever since I was a little kid. I started with prepackaged electronics kits building simple radios when I was in elementary school, then worked my way up to computer networking in high school and college.
After college I spent 15 years doing enterprise IT consulting before moving into industrial automation and material handling with Thouzer and CaPow. I would love to connect with you on LinkedIn!

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