Technology is constantly disrupting and improving every aspect of our life. Whether it comes to transportation, healthcare, money, or even our workplaces, technology is a significant change agent. The way technology is used and implemented can determine whether its effects can be considered a net positive or negative. Let us take a closer look at how automation technologies in the workplace, in particular, are disrupting, improving, and in some cases harming workers and their employers.
Automation is the replacement of tasks done by people with machines or robots. The automated teller machine (ATM) and self-check-out kiosks at grocery stores replace bank tellers and grocery store checkout clerks. Robots at automotive factories now help assemble cars, thus displacing some of the human labor that was previously required in the car manufacturing process. The above examples show how automation can replace human labor.
So is automation good or bad?
The answer is that it depends on what kind of automation technology is used and how it is utilized at work. If automation technology improves worker productivity and safety, then it should be considered a benefit. Automation technology that decreases the pay and makes the job more difficult and less safe should be regarded as a negative for employees.
Most employers adopt automation technology to reduce expenses, increase productivity, and improve safety. This should be the goal of employers when adopting automation technology. However, some employers adopt automation technologies with the sole purpose of displacing human workers. This creates a goal of displacing workers rather than increasing the productivity of existing workers and making their workplaces safer and more efficient.
Many people wrongly assume that automation technology requires no human input to operate. Self-checkout kiosks at grocery stores require employees to monitor the machines and assist customers who use them. ATMs require continuous service by bank employees. Automated customer service software needs to be set up, updated, and monitored to be effective.
In conclusion, automated technologies that improve worker productivity and safety, reduce expenses, and help create a better end product or service for the customer are a net good and should be adopted. When costs increase, an inferior product or service is delivered, and when worker productivity and safety decline, the technology is doing more harm than good and should be scrapped. While automation may displace some jobs, it can help create new ones. Furthermore, not all automation technology completely replaces existing jobs. Many new technologies act as complements that should help existing workers do their jobs more safely and effectively rather than replace them.