Are businesses preparing for automation?

robotic-workplaceThe popular press has seen no shortage of doomsday scenarios whereby robots are coming to take our jobs over the past year or so.  I’m largely pretty skeptical of these claims, and it seems as though employees are too.  I wrote recently about a New Zealand based study that asked people how concerned they were about their job being automated, with the answer broadly being “not very”.

I’m not entirely sure it’s wise to be quite so blasé about things, it does only represent one side of the coin.  Are employees similarly unimpressed by the potential impact automation could have?

Prepared for automation

A recent study, called the Robotic Workforce Research, has recently been published by AI company Genfour to try and understand how companies feel about automation.

They quizzed 250 businesses from the UK and United States to understand both their thoughts on robots, and any plans they have to introduce automation into their business.

Roughly half of the respondents believed that automation would be a positive thing for their business, with nearly all believing that a robotic future was inevitable.  What’s more, large numbers believed that significant portions of their business could be automated today.

Interestingly, whilst some businesses believe that the transformation will be almost immediate, the majority are confident it will happen within a few years, which is still a pretty swift transformation in my eyes.

“These statistics show a very different picture from the negative portrayal of the fear surrounding robots and automation we’ve seen all too often. Business leaders see automation as a way to increase productivity, reduce repetitive and mundane tasks and create efficiencies in the back office. It’s our job to elevate the power of automation out of departmental level and into the board room,” says Genfour boss James Hall.

A polarized workplace

Perhaps unsurprisingly, it was the IT department that was most enthusiastic about the prospects of automation.  Interestingly however, those at board level were the least enthusiastic, with the HR department appearing polarized in their enthusiasm.

What was also common was that across organizations and departments, those in the US were more enthusiastic about automation than their UK peers.

Enthusiasm was also higher amongst younger employees, with most of those who expressed concern about automation coming in the 45-54 age group.

In terms of industries, the report revealed that construction was the sector most likely to pursue automation, with over half revealing imminent plans to ramp up their use of automated machines on the building site, whether that be robotic bricklayers or automated project managers.

How does your own business feel about automation?  Is it a friend or a foe?


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