June 24, 2014

A robot will do your job in the future

Joni Lehtonen

, Kone

Currently, the automation of work is mainly focused on assembly and numbercrunching. It is being slowly adopted to areas such as market cashiers and self-driving cars. By the 2030s, automated cashiers and cars will be the norm and tasks performed by professionals such as doctors, analysts, and accountants might be done by a machine. Researchers from Oxford propose that almost half of US jobs could be automated in a couple of decades, including even management automation.

A study conducted by McKinsey & Company estimated that the automation of knowledge work has had the second largest economic impact, right after mobile internet. It has been said that automation is a chance for management to increase knowledge worker productivity fifty-fold through the 21st century. McKinsey & Company calculated the effect of additional productivity to equal the output of 110 - 140 million full-time workers with an economic value of $5.2 - $6.7 trillion.

Interestingly, only 37% of the respondents from the manufacturing industry think that advanced manufacturing will have a large impact on their way of working. This is an interesting find since industrial assembly and manufacturing will be one of the most automated industries, according to our research. The only fields that will be less automated are R&D, creative work, cleaning, caretaking, and some areas of medicine and management. Automation was considered to be disruptive by 10% of respondents working in the construction industry, and 45% working in the manufacturing industry.

Automation of work can be seen as a pretty simple thing if you are only thinking about ATMs or self-service check-ins at the airport. But when you bring in complex algorithms, automation becomes a lot more difficult to understand. In the near future, we will see more companies that base their entire business on algorithms. Google and Facebook currently represent a few of the best known examples.

How could Tieto use automation as a strategic game-changer?

Internally IT has been following the similar logic of industrial manufacturing from decades or even centuries ago.

The IT industry has a rather young history. Because of this, it was a craftsman type of industry until the last few years. Industrialisation has reached the IT industry, and now standardisation of IT services enables simple IT tasks like Cloud Servers. Manual Subscriptions and provisioning are outdated, and users can help themselves with self service portals and consume the IT when they want, where they want and in the variable volumes matching to the demand they are facing. IT has become a recyclable, disposal service for the modern economy. The IT industry is now taking the next steps and moving automation toward complex IT environments. Automation is moving from the infrastructure to the application level, and complex IT systems can be created by combining multiple simple cloud services together. Customers can adapt to this just as industrial manufacturing started to do in large scale somewhere in 1990s with mass-customization.

What kind of work will be automated in 10 years?

A lot of the work which is done today by human beings will be automated in the coming years. I believe that most of the work that I’m doing today will be automated soon. However, this does not make me worry that I do not have valuable things to do! By keeping myself open minded and looking eagerly toward the future, I’m confident that I will adapt for whatever new situations arise.

Overall, I think that this is the result of sustainable thinking. On one hand, some people have started to think about their needs more carefully, and therefore, less people are needed to fulfill the demand of physical goods. On the other hand, these goods that are needed can be produced with lower inputs, including human work, due to automation. There will be a technological displacement in the future where a digital experiences and embedded software will replace a lot which was used to be fulfill by physical goods.

The equation we have already seen in Scandinavian labor market will be different in the future. The will be one part of the labor market -- a highly skilled craftsmen market -- and the other will be a highly educated and advanced knowledge workers. But a lot of repeatable work such as office work of today and specialist work of today will be displaced by automation and computers. This transformation will force us to consider the capabilities people need in future work. In the craftsmen businesses, the capability to provide highly specialised and individual experiences will be the key, while in advanced knowledge working environment, we will see a future where everyone speaks "programming" just as fluently as they speak English. English and Programming will be must have prerequisites for students to start study the real subject matter speciality.

What sort of tasks should be prioritized when automating?

Hot spots for automation are the same as they always have been; tasks that are dangerous or risky when done by human beings, tasks where the productivity is poor (or human centricity is high), and tasks where a degree of quality and reliability is needed.

As for the competitive advantages of the future, they will be discovered in office buildings instead of factories. When the cost of production comes down and is only a fraction of the market price, areas of cheaper production will no longer play such a large role.

Joni is Global Solution Head for Industrial Internet at Tieto, you can find him on LinkedIn. You can download your copy our Future of Business Transformation study here or view a presentation of it on SlideShare.

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