Factory automation doesn’t spell doom for human workforce

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Nikki Summers, Regional Director, SAGE East Africa, speaking during the CIO IoT and AI Summit.
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Findings of McKinsey Global Institute recent study predicts that by 2030, as many as 800 million jobs could be lost worldwide to automation. The study, revealed that advances in AI will have a drastic effect on everyday working lives.

During the IoT and AI Summit organised by CIO East Africa in Nairobi, Kenya, Nikki Summers, Regional Director, SAGE East Africa, speaking on future factories mentioned that the biggest trend in smart manufacturing is lights out manufacturing, which means factories that run lights out are fully automated and require no human presence on-site. Summers shared an example of FANUC, a Japanese robotics company which has been operating a “lights out” factory for robots since 2001.

“Robots are building other robots at a rate of about 50 per 24-hour shift and can run unsupervised for as long as 30 days at a time,” said Summers.

Summers however notes that, with fully automated factories the margin for error is small, and everything must go right for it to work without a hitch. She adds that this necessitates the need for human intervention

The McKinsey report noted that even when some tasks are automated, employment in those occupations may not decline but rather workers may perform new tasks.

“Automation will have a lesser effect on jobs that involve managing people, applying expertise, and social interactions, where machines are unable to match human performance for now. Jobs in unpredictable environments—occupations such as gardeners, plumbers, or providers of child- and eldercare—will also generally see less automation by 2030, because they are technically difficult to automate and often command relatively lower wages, which makes automation a less attractive business proposition,” the report continued.

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