Over the years, we have seen companies integrate automations into their operations with highly positive effects on workers, contributing to increased worker safety, productivity and overall job satisfaction. However, many workers are still understandably nervous about being replaced by automation. As automation technology expands, it’s reasonable to expect some pushback from employees when looking to introduce automation into your production. With the right approach, you can prepare your workers for automation and build a stronger work environment in the process.
The Future of Factory Automation
From the first factory presses to assembly lines to computers and more, technology has continually reshaped factories and manufacturing. Each new invention has brought a mix of optimism and fear, opportunities and challenges. Factory automation is the latest innovation reshaping manufacturing, and has brought more uncertainty and opportunities than any previous technology.
The future of factory automation can be difficult to summarize or predict, but experts have made a few forecasts based on current and historic trends. Keeping these forecasts in mind can help to prepare workers for automation more effectively.
- Increasing productivity: Automation and robotics will increase productivity across the globe.
- Building more jobs: Contrary to some beliefs, the World Economic Forum predicts that automation will add about 12 million jobs by 2025.
- Moving fast: Automation isn’t going anywhere but up. Factory automation sector generated an estimated $242.5 billion in 2021, and is expected to generate $558.8 billion by 2031. Going into the future, ignoring automation will not be an option.
- Augmentation, not replacement: The International Federation of Robotics predicts that less than 10% of jobs can be fully automated. Instead, robots and automation will be augmenting and working collaboratively with people.
- Upskilling: Overall, jobs will not disappear, but required skill sets will shift. The demand for more technical skills, like engineering, data analysis, and IT skills will increase, as well as cooperative, creative, and leadership skills.
- Automation makes employees nervous: Evidence indicates that the prospect of automation makes employees nervous. Preparing your workers for automation the right way can help ease their concerns.
Tips to Prepare Your Workers for Automation
To successfully introduce automations into your factory or shop, it helps to keep workers in mind. The wrong messaging can make workers feel threatened, and may increase turnover or absenteeism as workers look for other employment options. The right messaging can show that automation helps keep employees safer, makes jobs easier, and provides opportunities for advancement.
Keep these tips on worker integration in mind for a smoother transition to automation in your production line:
Focus on Future Benefits
Rather than talking about the effects automation will have on your bottom line, shift the focus to how your new upgrades will make the company more competitive, contribute to long term sustainability, and ensure work for your employees down the road.
Highlight Positive Effects Now
How will the specific automations you plan to implement benefit your workers directly? Talk about how the processes you plan to automate will increase safety for your workers by removing them from risks associated with repetitive actions, heavy lifting or excessive strain.
Offer Opportunities for Upward Mobility
Most importantly, be sure to focus on including your current staff when shifting job responsibilities around working with automated machinery. Experts predict significant skills gaps as machines become more complex and require more complex skills to use and maintain. Training opportunities and on-site certification programs can help you keep high-quality, reliable workers, provide positive career opportunities for employees, and fill potentially costly skills gaps.
Explain and Reassure
Transparency is key to sending the right message and preparing your workers for automation. Create opportunities, such as annual meetings or newsletters, to explain to your employees where your business is heading, and what this means. Explain opportunities you’ll make available for reskilling and upskilling, and assure your employees that they are valuable and important.
As worker responsibilities shift from physically challenging or repetitive tasks to those that require more creativity, technical expertise, and critical thinking, companies often see a boost in job satisfaction and worker productivity across the board. Focusing on the positives and including your workers in the vision for the future is key to stifling worker resistance to automations that will help streamline your production.
Curious about what automations could be added into your current processes? We have worked with many companies to integrate automated operations and controls into existing production lines. Contact us to have a chat about what possibilities exist for your operation.