Artificial intelligence, computers, and robots taking over society by doing jobs that humans used to do— such events used to happen only in books, TV shows, and movies. These works of science fiction depict the “rise of the machines” in nearly all aspects of life. But with the lightning speed at which technology advances and experts saying that AI will eliminate 6% of jobs by 2021, one is made to think: are we really that far off from this (hopefully not dystopian) reality?
Here’s the truth: while automation technologies may not be able to completely eliminate entire occupations in the next 10 years, they are definitely playing vital roles in our everyday lives and have actually affected almost all kinds of jobs on different levels. Furthermore, automation has the potential to transform different sectors by solving different inherent challenges in across different fields.
Here are just some of the few industries that will benefit—or are already benefiting—from automation.
Manufacturing and Construction – Human Error and Physical Injuries
The manufacturing industry is one of the first to incorporate automation in its processes. From high-precision linear stages used in motion control for electronics and semiconductor manufacturing to automatic pipettes that ensure correct dosages of active ingredients in making medicines, automation has minimized and will continue to minimize, possibly even eliminate, human error in operations.
Meanwhile, human error in in the manufacturing of life-critical systems can result in issues like design flaws, actual structural defects, and even injuries or death if the equipment or machine fails. Automating the machining of components used in such systems can reduce the possibility of human error and the resulting flaws in design and production.
In construction, on the other hand, the repetitive motions and the lifting of heavy objects performed by workers can end up in injuries like sprains and fractures. By automating these predictable work requirements through solutions like brick-laying machines and lifting tables, for example, construction companies will be able to reduce the incidences of injuries related to physical labor.
Farming – Crop Quality
Food security is a worldwide issue that needs to be addressed if we are to make a dent in world hunger. Fortunately, automation has also made its way into farming, in the form of sensors that keep track of water and nutrient levels in the soil, triggering automated irrigation and fertilizer-release systems. There is also no need to worry about over-watering or over-fertilizing, since the measurement of water and fertilizers are also automated and carefully monitored.
Meanwhile, drones and planes are also flown over fields to assess crop health and quality, soil conditions, humidity, and other factors. The information can then be used to tweak or develop new crop rotation plans, pest control programs, and other farming-related activities.
Wholesale and Retail – Stock Management and Logistics
The wholesale and retail sector can take advantage of automation technologies to better manage their stocks through the use of inventory control systems that track not only the supply quantity but also manage order fulfillment, billing and costing, and other related functions.
Logistics is also another facet of these two industries that can be optimized with the help of automation. Delivery routes, shipping schedules, and supply chain management in particular, can be easily tracked and can therefore be made more efficient with the help of software and machines, alike.
Banking and Finance – Accuracy and 24/7 Availability
The world of banking has one of the most ubiquitous applications of automation: the ATM. However, it’s not only dispensing cash that can be automated for banking and finance. Indeed, because these industries are closely tied to the collection and processing of data, they will largely benefit from automating operations like gathering customer or product information and verifying accounts. Automation will also make these services available at any time, not just during banking hours.
And while accountants won’t be running out of jobs soon, more and more businesses are turning to widely available accounting software that make routine accounting activities not only easier, but also faster and more accurate.
Healthcare – Accuracy and Precision
While robots have yet to conduct medical procedures all by themselves, computer-assisted surgeries using high-precision machines are already a thing in the healthcare industry. Not only do these machines provide better control and thus more precise motions, some of them help improve patient recovery times and overall quality of life post-surgery.
Meanwhile, procedures like collecting and managing data, preparing food, and administering medication are just a few healthcare-related activities that may become less labor intensive and more accurate with the help of automation.
It seems almost inevitable that machines will replace human workers in quite a few industries. However, understanding how automation can benefit both employers and employees will help them focus on developing skills and competencies like critical thinking and analysis that can’t yet be automated.