Why Automation is Good for Business
Robots will take your job. That, we’re so often told (and in increasingly gloomy tones) is an inevitability, and one that for many of us, will render us irrelevant – or at least make us feel that way. We can’t do anything about it, so the argument runs; we simply have to show up to our respective offices each day, do our work, and wait for the inevitable.
In a sense, this sort of pessimism has its merits. By predicting a worst-possible-outcome scenario, short of “robots will kill us all”, commentators are giving people reasons to develop new skills, explore other income streams and plan for the future. These are shrewd courses of action to take at any time, and at any age.
But all the doom-and-gloom talk also has its shortcomings. There are nuances to the argument that haven’t been discussed, and an increasingly oppositional flavour to the commentary that suggests that automation and its ultimate expression, robots, are in some way competing with human beings. Not only is this not true, but it draws away attention that might be given over to the many ways in which automation benefits business and therefore the wider economy. Something that benefits everyone.
“They found, by analysing 14 years of data, that both wages and worker productivity increased in factories using robots.”
“Automation creates a space in which individuals can be creative, and so think up new and imaginative ways to solve the problems of the consumer.”
For businesses themselves, improved productivity and lower costs are of course good things, creating or saving capital which can be invested back into the company (and creating jobs for those who assemble, design and maintain the machines). Machines are naturally resilient to stress and failure in a way that humans are not, and can self-diagnose problems, perform consistently and work longer hours. This means, in other words, higher quality work, fewer errors and less danger to human workers. What’s more, demand for ever-cheaper products has led many of the larger companies to look abroad, to Bangladesh or China for instance, where the labour is cheaper and the regulations on working conditions looser. Advanced automation can bring those factories back to the country of origin, saving costs on shipping, overseas contractors and foreign taxes, and creating jobs for those at home while still offering the consumer cheaper products.
“The money saved by businesses because of automation can be directed towards workers’ wages, or recruitment; businesses can even launch new, off-shoot companies.”
This article is designed to throw an everyday lens on some of the issues being discussed and debated by investors across the world; it is not research, so please do not interpret it as a recommendation for your personal investments. If something has piqued your interest and you would like to find out more or discuss what investments might be suitable for you, please contact one of our Investment Managers on 020 7337 0777.