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Posted on : Wednesday 17th June 2020 03:32 PM

Is the Supply Chain Ready for Robots?

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Supply chain automation as a method to keep up with consumer demand and lower expenses is no new concept.  What is new, however, is the accessibility of the latest generation of robotics and automation solutions. These days, 72 percent of enterprises use robotic automation, and usage is on the increase, quickening deployment of intelligent machines across manufacturing, warehousing and distribution to a record pace.


The ruffle effect is a host of new opportunities and challenges for supply chain organizations, the most critical of which is securing the skills required and changing the way people work in a progressively digitized industrial environment.


Each chapter of the Industrial Revolution demonstrates a usual ebb and flow in the number and makeup of jobs. As early as the steam engine, innovation displaced certain workers with new ones who, for example, had cognitive skills like creativity and problem-solving. This continues with robots. According to the World Economic Forum, by 2022, the shifting labor division between humans, machines and algorithms will result in 75 million dropped job roles, but an addition of 133 million job roles, netting 58 million.


Amazon exemplifies this dynamic. The company had about 45,000 workers when it launched robots in 2014. Now, with upwards of 80,000 robots in operation, Amazon employs more than 600,000 workers. Similar results have been found across the organizational spectrum, from great multi-national employers to small manufacturing companies.


Out With the Old, in With the New


As technologies advance through each industrial revolution, jobs—and job titles—have changed to mirror newly required skills. Actually, a recent MIT study concluded that in the past decade, occupations boasting a 10 percent increase in job titles also grew 5 percent quicker. Many unheard-of job titles, as an example, emerged through the rise of cell phones, mobile apps, social media and cloud-based services.


This trend is well underway in the automation age. Job roles characterized as task- or manual process-based are dropping, and even possible to disappear, in the next few years. Concurrently, traditional jobs, such as for instance machinists, welders and technicians, are spawning new job roles like “mechatronics,” which combines mechanics and systems design.


The speedy beginning of new roles presents an enormous challenge to companies’ pursuit of automation implementation—and an ever-widening skills gap.


It’s Not a Gap… It’s a Chasm


Never before has technology disrupted American society at such a rapid clip. The capabilities gap is projected to leave 2.4 million spots empty between 2018 and 2028, with a possible economic impact of $2.5 trillion, according to Deloitte. In addition to that, 80 percent of manufacturers report a absence of qualified applicants for skilled production positions, which could result an 11 percent loss in annual earnings. Even as 80 percent of manufacturing managers are willing to pay more than market rate to fill positions afflicted by the skills gap, 60 percent of those spots remain unfilled.


New Ways of Learning


Experienced professionals are key to corporate success and global economic development. Then again which skills are needed for a future of automation? As Deloitte puts it, digital skills like programming and technology must marry human skills like critical thinking, emotional intelligence and creativity. But if there is one skill to encourage among future workers, it’s the ability to keep learning and adapting.


Between 75 and 375 million displaced laborers may need to change occupational categories and learn new skills by 2030. For the supply chain’s automation age, learning can take different shapes:


•             AR and VR can display information across a worker’s field of vision to mimic real-time.

•             Companies can use simulation training for highly complex tasks or dangerous jobs where errors can be deadly.

•             More learning systems will migrate online.


The changes will keep coming in the age of robots. Some may be evolutionary, as workers conform to new technologies, while others will be revolutionary, leading to new industries and job roles. The goal, however, is still the same: ensuring that the evolution of our human skills keeps pace with automation.


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