Automation, once thought to be a job-killer, is actually saving them

This article offers a few good updates about automation. However, we should not ignore social benefit of the automation to us, human. Check out other references listed after my citations about why.

There is no arguments that, when there is enough demand, automation helps businesses to meet that demand. It is, when demand drops, automation starts to hurt.

The surge in e-commerce has required the rapid build-out of a vast network of warehouses and delivery systems that include both robots and human workers. The robots didn’t take jobs from people, because many of the jobs didn’t exist before.

But worries about a “retail apocalypse” have missed a more important trend: E-commerce actually leads to more jobs by paying people to do things we used to do ourselves. When people shop online, tasks that once filled their days — driving to a store, searching through aisles for a product, taking it to a cashier and paying for it — are now done by warehouse employees and truck drivers. That means the bankruptcies and store closings in the retail sector aren’t the complete picture. While jobs have been lost in stores, many more have been gained from online shopping.

Since 2014, Amazon has deployed 100,000 robots in 25 warehouses worldwide. At the same time, it has nearly tripled its hourly workforce, from roughly 45,000 to nearly 125,000.

The explosion of online commerce is also building demand for higher-paying jobs in software and robotics. Nearly 14 percent of software job listings are now posted by retailers, according to data analyzed by Glassdoor, the job recruitment website. That share has doubled from 2012, says Andrew Chamberlain, Glassdoor’s chief economist.

“What’s going to happen next is robotic arms, combined with vision technology and suction technology,” says Marc Wulfraat, president of MWV- PL, a consulting firm. Wulfraat predicts that hundreds of smaller warehouses will be built in large cities to shorten delivery times to as low as an hour, particularly for groceries. Amazon already has 53 such facilities, and its competitors will be forced to follow suit.

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