The Changing Workforce: How Automation is Transforming Today’s Job Market

  • November 17, 2014
  • Westfalia Technologies, Inc.
  • Feature

By Gary Frank, Westfalia Technologies As technology continues to become more sophisticated every day, companies are able to run leaner and more powerful operations. However, from manufacturing assembly lines to service industries, more and more professions are being replaced by machines and devices that eclipse the capabilities of humans. Automation technology, in particular, is transforming how warehouses and distribution centers operate. Companies using high-density automated storage and retrieval systems (AS/RS) are realizing greater operational efficiencies, accuracies and cost savings, due in part to the reduction of labor requirements. By automating once manual processes (for example, order picking), companies are able to do more with less, thereby lowering overhead costs, boosting productivity and decreasing the likelihood of damaged products. These implications are great news for the logistics and supply chain industry, but what about this market’s workforce? Contrary to the commonly held belief that automation technology is destroying millions of jobs and displacing workers across the country, today’s job market is not vanishing, but rather evolving. While there are surely some jobs rendered obsolete due to automation, workers are still needed, but for higher-level, more tech-related jobs. In reality, the logistics industry will create 270,200 job openings each forthcoming year, which will amount to over one million job openings nationwide over the next four years, as predicted by the Georgia Center of Innovation for Logistics. In addition, the Manufacturing Institute estimates that approximately 600,000 positions go unfilled every year. Although new job opportunities are on the rise, it is becoming increasingly difficult to fill these positions due to the skill sets of the current talent pool. In fact, the U.S. Roadmap for Material Handling & Logistics predicted that by 2025, the gap between the workforce needs and the work available will continue to grow. To bridge this gap, it is important to educate the next generation of job seekers so that they are fit to fill these new high-tech positions. According to the College Industry Council on Material Handling Education, out of the top 100 universities that supply the material handling field, only 40 percent offer at least one course dedicated to material handling. That number continues to decline. Further complicating the situation is the changing demographics of today’s potential workforce. Baby boomers are retiring, and without the readily available resources and educational opportunities, the labor pool is displaying a lack of interest in the logistics and supply chain industries. Without a doubt, the promotion of this career path is vital to the future of these industries. Looking ahead, the workforce will certainly continue to change and evolve, especially as technology does the same. Now is the time to reach out to these potential employees and ensure that the proper resources and training are available to prepare them to positively impact their future employers. In the end, the right automation technology paired with the right workers will position companies for success and uphold their staying power in a competitive marketplace.

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