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Automation and AI Integration – Survival of the most adaptable

27/02/18 Rachael Dent Head of Operations & Manufacturing

There’s no question that technology is drastically changing the way we work, but what will the jobs market look like in 2050? Will 40% of manufacturing roles have been lost to automation – as predicted by Oxford University economists Dr Carl Frey and Dr Michael Osborne – or will there still be manufacturing jobs even if the nature of work is exceptionally different from today?

Automation is already prevalent in the UK’s manufacturing industry and with advances in Artificial Intelligence (AI) and remote communication, this practice is more than likely to become more advanced in the coming years. In terms of manufacturing, Automation is the process which takes rote tasks and designing a system that performs them in a fully automatic way. Automation presents numerous benefits, including mechanical precision and consistency, greater safety and can reduce operating expenses.

According to EEF, UK manufacturing currently:

  • employs 2.7 million people
  • contributes 10% of GVA
  • accounts for 45% of total exports
  • represents 68% of business research and development (R&D) 
  • provides 14% of business investment

Based on the trajectory of current automation trends, AI will make automation more widespread and even more reliable. We asked Rachael Palmer, Redline’s Head of Operations Consultant how automation will change the UK’s manufacturing sector and how manufacturing jobs will be affected in the next few years.

 “It is clear that more manufacturing plants will become hundred-percent automated in the near future.” says Rachael. “We have seen the possibilities of some manufacturing plants being entirely run by just a few people with the majority of operations performed by automated machines and robotics. However, even the most fine-tuned machinery requires human interaction and correction to recognise and prevent manufacturing failures. This is where AI is the game changer. AI could make it possible for manufacturing machines to understand far more complex tasks and goals than those which are currently executed. This will make it possible for operations jobs to become 100% automated at a given location with regular remote check-ins from a central hub.”

“In theory, AI could not only alert a human who is overseeing tasks in the event of a manufacturing failure but possibly correct it as well. This means that there will be more errors caught before they cost a business the expense of a recall. The money lost by manufacturing a product is not even the worst part of a manufacturing failure. Automation could allow for consistency and quality in the manufacturing process.” says Rachael.

What does this mean for the manufacturing job sector in the UK?

“New automation technologies in areas like AI and robotics will both create totally new controls and automation jobs in the digital technology area and, through productivity gains, generate additional wealth and spending that will support additional jobs of existing kinds, primarily in services sectors that are less easy to automate”, says Rachael.

“A report published by PWC early 2017 suggested that 30% of UK manufacturing and operations jobs could potentially be at high risk of automation by the early 2030s. The risks appear highest in sectors such as manufacturing (46%). The key differentiating factor is education. For those with just GCSE-level education or lower, the estimated potential risk of automation is as high as 46% in the UK, but this falls to only around 12% for those with undergraduate degrees or higher.”

Over the past few years, fears of technology-driven job losses have re-emerged with advances in ‘smart automation’ – the combination of AI, robotics and other digital technologies that is already producing innovations like driverless cars and trucks, intelligent virtual assistants like Siri, Alexa and Cortana, and Japanese healthcare robots.

Automation and AI Integration on the rise

“Furthermore new technologies in areas like AI and robotics will both create some totally new manufacturing jobs in the digital technology area and, through productivity gains, generate additional wealth and spending that will support additional jobs of existing kinds, primarily in services sectors that are less easy to automate.”

“The reality of manufacturing is that many of the calculations that human minds find complex can happen instantaneously for an automation machine. While many people believe this is going to mean people will be replaced, we can hope it simply means they are going to move into new roles. This has happened throughout the history of industry, and it generally results in a higher average standard of living in the long run, which gives us reason to be excited about the future. The future of work will soon become ‘the survival of the most adaptable’ as new technologies fundamentally change the way we work, the jobs that remain will be multifaceted and changeable.”

“The UK’s long tail of not-very-productive companies require more resources to be allocated to process innovation in order to enhance the adoption of new technologies and modern manufacturing techniques in Process, Control and Automation jobs."

If you are a candidate and want to find out more about manufacturing jobs and careers in manufacturing and operations, or to see our latest job opportunities, click here or alternatively contact Rachael Deent on 01582 878847 or email RDent@RedlineGroup.com