A recent study from the NFU on the Future of Food predicts a large increase in the use of robotics in agriculture, which got us thinking about how that will change the pattern of work in our part of the country which is so dependent on the farming sector for employment.
Whilst the use of robots in farming is still relatively small scale, it is useful to look at other sectors where automation is more widely used as an indicator for future trends. In the retail and warehousing sector, robots have been introduced in both shops and back office functions. There have been 3 main impacts:
- Robots have tended to assist humans, not replace them
- Humans are able to focus more time and energy on the tasks robots cannot tackle
- Humans are able to spend more time on customer-focused work.
Increasingly, humans find themselves working alongside robots, rather than being replaced by them.
There has also been an expansion in the types of jobs humans undertake to support the robot workforce. Entirely new categories of work are being created. Think back to the start of the internet – how many software engineers and web design staff were there in 1984?
The challenge for agriculture seems to be the development of widespread robotic solutions, as most innovations at present seem to be relatively small scale. In many ways, the UK is lagging behind our competitors in the use of robots in the workplace. For every 10,000 workers, the US has 93 robot units, and Japan has 213. In the UK, there are just 33.
What is certain is that there will be more widespread use of robot technology in the workplace, and this will inevitably have an impact on the pattern of work for humans. For the time being, we are told that robots will not replace humans but will work alongside us. What impact has automation had in your own business? Are your work processes suited to automation? Has robot technology changed your pattern of work?
Rest assured, though – for the time being at least, it’s still going to be humans doing your accounts here at Barwells…