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News : Robot Workers Cut Low-skilled Jobs by Nearly Half
Sydney, Australia, Oct 1, 2015 -- They call them "robot workers" but really they're computers that can learn and they could lead to a 40 per reduction in low skilled jobs and cut costs for business in half, according to a major report on automation.
Intelligent, learning computers are the next step in automation - several generations ahead of the robots people are used to seeing in factories.
ANZ Banking Group, AMP, IBM and Westpac are among large companies moving to embrace robot technology to automate back office, finance and human resources functions as the IT automation market burgeons from just $US183 million in 2013 to $US1.98 billion by 2020.
ANZ's general manager of group hubs, Simen Munter, said they planned to deploy 100 "robots" next year, after running a pilot program across the bank particularly in its finance, human resources and mortgage processing departments.
But Mr Munter and other employers are at pains to argue robot computers will not replace humans but eliminate mundane, routine tasks such as payroll, invoices and closing accounts so that workers can focus on more high-level tasks.
"It is about smart people working with smart robots," Mr Munter told The Australian Financial Review.
"It is not driven by the cost saving, it is about doing away with mundane, repetitive tasks and driving consistency, it is not robots versus humans," he said.
Mr Munter said their pilot program showed that employees who were impacted had improved job satisfaction.
"It is not about job loss but job engagement," he said. "People are really concerned about how it sits with the people doing those jobs at the moment but what we see is that for roles where we are using automation we see a massive uplift in engagement from those people because they are seeing their jobs getting better," he said.
"A lot of people are suspicious but there is a tremendous amount of work which we don't need to do anymore and no one is regretting those advancements."
Impact on labour market significant
The report management advisory firm Mindfields concludes that cost savings by using intelligent software that learns on the job would be "dramatic" and the impact on low skilled white collar workers will be "significant" but that people could be re-skilled in implementing, managing and maintaining robots among other jobs.
"The expected cost savings are dramatic and will be hard to ignore, but RPA [Robotics and Process Automation] will have a significant impact on labour markets, leading to a change in hiring strategy and the mix of staffing required," the report said.
"There will be a shift from hiring low-skilled resources to more qualified professionals who will benefit from having experience in disruptive technology, domains including automation, process improvement, governance and compliance cloud, mobility, analytics and social media," the report said.
"Staff reduction strategies will also be required where staff members are not able to be trained for other roles."
But director of Mindfields, Mohit Sharma, argued disruptive examples liked ride-sharing app Uber showed that technology can grow a market.
"Technology has always made human life more comfortable and releases human bandwidth for more productive use," he said. "Uber is a good example of automation. It has no call centre and it enhanced cab markets in San Francisco from $200 million to $1 billon."
Posted by Veronica Silva Cusi, news correspondent
Today's Tip of the Day - Workforce Management Strategy
Mindfields is a report management advisory firm
Published: Monday, October 5, 2015