The future of manufacturing has arrived, and with it comes doomsday predictions about how artificial intelligence and automation will transform the Texas workforce.
AI, smart-home technology, and other innovations have come to reality in quick succession over the past few years, transforming lives and businesses everywhere. However, these changes have also created new concerns about the permeation of technology in so many areas, and one of the most prevalent is how it will impact Texas technical jobs.
As automation becomes more ingrained in manufacturing careers, the idea that humans will be eliminated from the workforce has become a frequently voiced fear. However, most reports suggest that although AI will impact traditional manufacturing, those jobs will be replaced by new opportunities that will spur further economic growth.
We’ve Been Here Before
What many people fail to remember is that the industry has experienced dramatic changes like this before. From the industrial revolution to printing presses to modern-day farming methods, technology changes did cause people to lose jobs in specific fields, but new ones were then created. In most cases, the same will hold true for the Fourth Industrial Revolution (Industry 4.0).
Rewinding back to a few years ago when robotics started to gain ground, ladder manufacturer Wing Enterprises Inc. purchased welding robots which struck fear in the workers that it would result in job cuts. On the contrary, the robots increased productivity by 30 percent, leading the company to expand its workforce from 20 to 400 employees and build a new facility.
Similarly, when Toyota Motor Corp. changed its process for installing gas tanks by using robotics, the change resulted in increased efficiency. Rather than the company cutting jobs, it now requires additional human inspection for flaws and weaknesses.
In adding automation to these tasks, manufacturers have streamlined processes, allowed more consistency and higher production rates, and have given their workers more specialized skill benefits.
Reskilling the Texas Workforce
According to McKinsey Global Institute, 15 percent of the global workforce (400 million workers) will be displaced or their jobs will transform by 2030 amid automation adoption. However, there is another 8 to 9 percent of employees who work in categories that don’t yet exist. A significant reskilling of workers will be required.
Cross-training employees and upgrading their skill sets is one way manufacturing companies are preparing to adopt automation into everyday production. With the increased need for skilled labor, 38 percent of U.S. manufacturers hired agencies to help staff their open roles, according to the ASQ Manufacturing Outlook survey.
Honing in on the Texas workforce, manufacturing employment is surging. As of May 2018, more than 200,000 industrial jobs were added over the course of a year. Texas’ manufacturers now employ 1.2 million people in the state, ranking it first in the U.S. for the number of manufacturing jobs.
While Texas employment growth isn’t solely a result of automation adding more jobs, it’s clear it is not dramatically reducing the workforce numbers yet. Even as AI and automation continue to hit the mainstream, it’s rare an occupation is eliminated entirely. In fact, only one occupation has been eliminated by automation over the last 60 years: elevator operators.
Which Jobs Are Safe?
While some jobs are more at risk than others to be automated in the upcoming years, Texas technical jobs aren’t going anywhere. A study conducted by Oxford University found that the jobs with the highest risk of automation include telemarketers, loan officers, cashiers, paralegals, taxi drivers, and fast food cooks. Meanwhile, the careers that are considered least likely to be automized are more technical jobs, including first-line supervisors of mechanics, surgeons, audiologists, sales engineers, computer systems analysts, and more.
While productivity will increase with increased adoption of AI and automation, in order for Texas manufacturers to fuel growth, they will need to invest in retraining and reskilling their workers. Considering automation can handle up to 45 percent of repetitive work, this leaves more time for workers to focus on higher-value tasks and problem-solving. To empower employees and generate a more challenging and engaging work environment, it’s time for manufacturing companies to focus on the workforce and closing the skills gap.