Automation poses opportunity – not threat – to labour

If your business automation is causing job losses and redundancy of staff, you’re doing it wrong.

September 27, 2013

“If your business automation is causing job losses and redundancy of staff, you’re doing it wrong.” So says Alexander Mehlhorn, CEO of software development company Framework One. He was responding to recent reports of automation in particularly the manufacturing sector that have led to mass lay-offs.

“The objective of business process automation is always to remove bottlenecks to growth and increase productivity. Whether you’re in sales or manufacturing, once you increase your output you will need to employ additional resources to service the growing demand effectively, creating new job opportunities.”

There are also significant benefits to existing workers. “An automation solution will ease the strain on certain manual processes, but it makes the need for proper oversight all the more important. A supervisor will need to upskill in order to manage the floor and ensure effective resource allocation.”

According to Mehlhorn, who specialises in developing enterprise-level business process automation solutions using cloud-based platforms, this is where the opportunity for less skilled workers lies. “A packer, for example, may focus on only one activity – packing boxes – all day. But with the insight that automation provides to a supervisor, he can allocate certain workers, where there may be an abundance of resources, to a different function. This not only boosts productivity but also enables the worker to broaden his skills base, making him more valuable as an employee.”

Where automation does result in job losses, there are usually some legacy issues that were not adequately addressed, or missed altogether. “Many companies confuse activity with accomplishment. Business process automation will streamline internal processes and often highlight where too many people are fulfilling a single function. However, the objective should still not be to lay these people off, but to reallocate them to business processes that require additional resources as the need arises. Any redundancy therefore is simply highlighted by the automation process, not caused by it.”