Over the last couple of decades there has been a sea change in the functioning of businesses regardless of whether it is a start-up or is in the manufacturing or trading sector. Most tedious, repetitive and time consuming manual processes are now being done by computers and machines that replicate human functions. So much so that Artificial Intelligence and machine learning have also taken over predictive thought processes of human beings, taking automation in industries to an altogether new level.
The point now is whether all these radical transformations are good or bad for industries in general and for employees in particular. One school of thought is of the opinion that to increase operational efficiencies and to stay competitive, it is necessary that all business procedures be speeded up through automation. On the other hand, in economies that are purely labour intensive in nature, large scale automation will exponentially increase unemployment levels.
Here are a few good and bad effects of introducing automation in industries.
Good effects of automation
- Increased efficiencies – There is an overall increase in output. In the manufacturing sector, machines can perform routine tasks with pin point accuracy, quickly and effectively. There is no need to take any human decisions as all required parameters are programmed into the machines which perform on their own. Hence there is no scope for human error. This is especially relevant in backend work like accounts and bookkeeping where data entry and processing are automated, thereby totally ruling out the possibility of inaccuracies.
With automation, it is easier to introduce advanced technologies at workplace. For example, the latest in this regard is Blockchain technology which makes business processes safe and secure apart from enhancing accuracy levels and speed of operations. This can be quickly incorporated into existing systems if automation is already in place.
- Higher profitability – While it is true that substantial investments are required initially for switching to automation, it is paying in the long run. Every machine does the work of a number of employees, leading to major savings in salaries and other establishment cost. Apart from this, automation results in increased output and production and thus turnover goes up manifold. These two factors combined is a sure way to boost profitability within a very short period of time.
- Safer work environment – There are certain tasks especially in the manufacturing sector that are hazardous in nature. Automating these jobs with machines and robots mean more safety for employees and operators.
Adverse effects of automation
- Less flexibility – A machine can be programmed to perform fixed tasks within certain limits. Whenever something has to be done outside the usual routine, human intervention will be required. Hence a machine has limited flexibility at work when compared to regular employees.
- Large investments – A fully automated machine performing multiple intricate tasks can entail thousands and millions of dollars of initial investments. While it is paying in the long run, shelling out huge amounts can dent the financial stability of a small to medium scale business.
- Pollution – Machines pollute the environment since they need gasses or chemicals or other fossil fuels to operate. Further, emissions often become a matter of great concern. However, it has to be mentioned here that most machines for automation are electronic and hence have zero emission levels.
- Increased unemployment- This is the main plank on which opponents of automation base their cause. In poor and under developed economies of the world, unemployment is always a major cause of worry. Installing automated machines that substitute human beings will only make matters worse in such scenarios.
- Unforseen expenses – It is not entirely correct to assume that automation is a onetime investment. There are other costs which can be quite unpredictable in nature. Automating systems and matching them with existing processes, training employees to operate these machines and preventive maintenance expenses have to be taken into account and all these combined can add up to significant sums.
Taking all these factors into account, the jury is still out on whether automation is good or bad for industries. One thing though has to be kept in mind and that is whether buying a machine that automates business processes will be economically feasible for that particular company or business. All other factors will revolve around this decision only.