THERE is that delicate balance between automation and job security.When work is automated, the speed of productivity is increased manifold. But this comes at a human cost – ie., job losses.
In a modern world where regular and clockwork delivery is key, and speed is essential to stay competitive, automation may take over certain functions wherever possible. This progress cannot be held back in many industries.
A McKinsey Global Institute report estimates “that about half of all the activities people are paid to do in the world’s workforce could potentially be automated by adapting currently demonstrated technologies.” (1)
Their ‘A future that works: Automation, employment, and productivity’ report says their analysis shows humans will still be needed in the workforce. “That , in turn, will fundamentally alter the workplace, requiring a new degree of cooperation between workers and technology.”
McKinsey research into where machines could and could not yet replace humans shows predictable physical work, such as welding, has the potential to be automated. (2)
Unpredictable physical work, such as making a bed in a hotel room, could be more difficult to automate, according to McKinsey’s research.
Their analysis shows the hardest activities to automate with currently available technologies are those that involve managing people or creative work. It says the value of human interaction is evident in two sectors that, so far, have a “relatively low technical potential for automation: healthcare and education”.
A survey by the International Labour Organisation in July 2016 titled “ASEAN in transformation: How technology is changing jobs and enterprises” says that new technological developments are taking place rapidly. (3)
The survey looked at the impact of technology on five sectors in the ASEAN region – automotive and auto parts; electrical and electronics; textile, clothing and footwear; business process outsourcing; and retail.
It said electrical and electronics manufacturing is one of the region’s “most prominent sectors and a mainstay of economic growth, especially as the region moves up the value chain in manufacturing, away from low-cost production.”
In Malaysia, the electronics industry in 2010 accounted for around 27 percent of the manufacturing workforce – in other words nearly 500,000 people.
Clearly, there is potential for Malaysian industries to adopt automation best practices. But the human cost has to be taken into account as Malaysian businesses go down this road.
Economic transformation should be the goal if and when Malaysia takes steps to use advanced technologies in the workplace automation.