Happy Labor Day week from ROI! We want to express our appreciation to all our valued clients by sharing some helpful and educational content. We hope you find it valuable.

Labor Day is recognized as a public holiday across North America (equivalent to May Day across much of Europe. Although, the holiday’s exact origins are unknown, it is generally accepted that it is in place to recognize the effort of American labor unions in the 1800s and their push to improve conditions for the working classes.

While many US states espouse their status as “right-to-work” states, with the benefit to employers being minimal to non-existent private sector union activity, others are open about their union heritage, which they say points toward healthier relationships between employers and employees, better satisfaction levels, and higher productivity.

While researching this topic, I was drawn to the automation theme and how it is impacting industries and their workers in a variety of ways. Experts are predicting that robots will eventually replace most humans in the workforce. This is a trend that has been seen in the past. For instance, agriculture in the developed world was once an incredibly labor-intensive activity.

Nowadays, one farmer with a barn full of machinery and computers can do the work of dozens. Companies are catching up to this trend. Kinze Manufacturing, John Deere, and Yanmar, are developing autonomous solutions for the agricultural sector.  If you are an economic developer in a region with a strong agricultural and engineering cluster, such as the Midwest US or Prairies in Canada, it would be worthwhile to check out these companies.

While machines can (and will) be trained to carry out many increasingly challenging tasks quicker and more efficiently than humans, it is not all doom and gloom. Automation already plays a massive role in the automotive sector, for example, with companies like Kuka Robotics and Denso pioneering in the industry. I was on a trip to North Carolina earlier this year with my colleague John Voorhorst who regaled me with a story of a visit he made to a Denso facility. As he walked through the facility, he was able to count the number of people on the shop floor on his hands. Despite this, employment in the automotive sector in the US continues to rise.

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In my view, this indicates that automation should not be seen as a threat to an industry, rather an opportunity for growth, change and creativity. Automation leads to increased productivity, better outputs, and higher profits, which can be invested in the workforce to improve training and other soft skills.

What do you think about the automation trend? Which industries will evolve or change the most as automation increases? What are some of the benefits or risks that you’ve already seen or experienced?

I, for one, welcome our new robotic colleagues or coworkers! Just once I get the first Monday in September off work…

Happy September to all,

Paul Brogan
Vice President, Client Services