The state of workplace automation in 2019

Fears surrounding automation in the workplace have been present since the industrial evolution and the evidence shows AI is coming fast, but are they justified?

According to a recent Deloitte report, 58% of companies have now started their automation journey. This means that they are trialling  between 1 and 10 automated systems within their organisations. This could mean automated CRM systems, online booking systems, or robotic assembly in factories. Polestar, for instance, is developing its own automated process for customer engagement and deal management. 

Of this 58%, 8% of respondents are automating at scale (with over 51 automated processes), double the number reported in 2018.

Automation, which is rapidly getting cheaper, will save companies time and resources, cutting out the need for humans to perform repetitive tasks; saving cash and reducing human error. Although AI and machine learning is still in its infancy, the rate of innovation is staggering: the breadth of automated processes keeps expanding as the software becomes more sophisticated and capable of more nuanced processes. 

With time and resources freed up, business can look to invest elsewhere, allowing for more innovative products, improved services, and reduced costs to consumers. 

What about those whose jobs will be displaced? I refer back to my original point: people have been worrying about automation since the industrial revolution. As automated systems increase in popularity and feasibility, so too will the number of displaced workers – but so too will the number of maintenance jobs required to survey the new automated systems. Hopefully, the jobs will change, not disappear. 

Perhaps blue collar work will move away from easily-automated processes such as construction and transportation, and will see more people adopting skills that are harder for a machine to perform. That said, as a society we will need to find solutions as we move to this new world, and let’s not forget the aim of zero carbon emissions. It is likely that the jobs and expectations for those born today will be radically different form those of older generations.

Much like the industrial revolution, it’s hard to understand the exact impact AI and automation will have while we’re still in its infancy. What’s clear though, is it is already proving an incredibly useful tool for businesses and will continue to the more it evolves and grows. In the meantime Polestar will continue to invest and see where this journey takes us.

AI increases the productive capacity of the human workforce. Over 90 per cent of organisations expect it to increase their workforce capacity.

By Rebecca Garland on 24/09/2019