It is common sense for businesses to look at where they are overspending and consider money-saving alternatives. One possible solution is automation, which can use technology to reduce staffing costs. This can be scary for those in at-risk jobs but it can be good for business. Automation is not all about robots taking over the workplace, but that’s not entirely science fiction either.
What is business process automation?
Business process automation (BPA) is a business strategy used to reduce costs. Automation itself is the use of equipment or technology that completes a process automatically. This can vary from machinery that completes previously manual tasks to intelligent software that carries out computer commands.
Automation is associated with workforce reductions because it improves efficiency. A widely implemented example is IT systems. Computers have decreased the time needed for many tasks. Companies, therefore, require less personnel to complete the same job. If a task can be fully automated, this cancels out the need for an employee at all.
Which businesses is automation good for?
Automation is effective for many industries, including any roles that require computer work. If you employ staff in desk jobs of any type, there are IT tools that can increase productivity for your business.
Anyone who works in an office knows the huge amount of time spent reading and responding to emails. A lot of that time is wasted. Because of this, Slack has become popular. Slack is a tool that formats your conversation like a chat window. While great for communication, there’s also automation and bot capabilities. This run down is a great place to start.
For further automation, there is If This Then That (IFTTT) which allows you to set up rules for over 240 third-party apps, including emails. You can automatically have calendars sync and send reminders so that no staff member ever accidently misses a meeting again. Attachments can be downloaded as soon as they are sent, and urgent emails can be received as a text.
Automation tools like this can be used across a wide range of businesses but they can also be adapted for specific industries. We have previously written about how estate agents can use property messenger bots to deal with customer queries. Of course, automation is not just about IT.
Cadbury’s recently announced that they had invested £75 million in chocolate-making and packing machines to save its UK plant from closure. Although their staff numbers have shrunk from 28 to 7, it is claimed this was executed to save the UK plant from closure with chocolate being three times cheaper to make in Germany.
What does the future hold for automation?
As IT systems and technology become increasingly intelligent, there may be developments that are impossible to predict. However, there are some changes already in the pipeline. The evolution of automation is not just a scientific fantasy – it is becoming a reality. There have been many changes in recent years, and we will continue to see them for the foreseeable future.
The fashion industry is likely to be revolutionised with the development of automated sewing, reducing the need for cheap foreign labour. With Uber already using self-driving cars, the future of transportation could also dramatically change. As artificial intelligence (AI) grows in its recognition of natural language, it’s also learning to write. Computers can already produce clickbait articles and financial reports. One day, robots could write blogs like this.
Which jobs could disappear?
Many banks are either closing or reducing the number of manned counters, so bank clerks are certainly at risk. Checkout workers are also threatened by the growing number of self-service tills, and telemarketing has dramatically changed with the use of pre-recorded messages.
With continued growth in automation, more and more industries and careers are likely to be affected – from animal breeders to paralegals, tire builders to library technicians and assistants, and plasterers to model makers.
There are a huge variety of jobs and industries that are likely to be affected. Just because one job is considered either safe or at risk, it is not necessarily reflective of the industry. Photographers, for instance, are regarded as stable whereas those who repair cameras, as well as those who work with photographic processing machines, are ranked as very likely to be replaced by technology.
A recent academic paper revealed that some other jobs that are among the most likely to be automated include:
- Mathematical Technicians
- Insurance underwriters
- Cooks (within restaurants)
- Manicurists and pedicurists
- Postal service clerks
- Agricultural inspectors
While it found the least likely jobs to be automated include:
- Art directors
- Dentists and Orthodontists
- Interior designers
- Aerospace engineers
- Music composers
- Physicians and surgeons
In the end, the future of automation is still unclear. While there are fears many could lose out, IBM’s CEO claimed new jobs will actually be created. Whatever the case, for many our workplaces will be very different ten years down the line.