Chief executives fear smart factory automation backlash
robot tax to ease factory automation backlash
A GE factory: unskilled workers are most at risk from the rise in automation.

Chief executives fear smart factory automation backlash

Chief executives fear that automation and Internet of Things (IoT) won’t be accepted by workers, investors or the general public.

Nearly half of CEOs around the world fear that automation and robots in factories and offices will prompt distrust among workers, investors and the general public.

According to an automation survey carried out PwC for its annual CEO survey, around half of executives worry that the fourth industrial revolution, where robots and sensors work alongside people in factories, will sow skepticism of the technology.

In a report by the Financial Times, General Electric is said to have estimated that digitizing industrial machinery, networks and processes will not only bring down manufacturing costs for companies but also deliver productivity improvements by $10-15 trillion worldwide in the next 20 years.

With the loss of jobs to automation and the internet of things, digital skills will come to the fore. According to the survey, while UK business leaders rate digital skills more highly than their global peers (83 percent vs 79 percent), people with these skills are proving hard to find. Two-thirds (67 percent) say recruiting people with digital skills is difficult, against just over half (52 percent) globally, and significantly higher than the US (43 percent) and China (24 percent), underlining a digital skills gap.

Automation and digital skills gap

Kevin Ellis, chairman and senior partner of PwC, said that in the tech talent race, UK organisations must be viewed as leading the way in emerging technology development.

“It is vital that we are able to attract businesses and people with the right tech skills, and also develop the requisite skills internally. With the current pace of technological change, it is hard to predict what jobs will look like in the future, so as well as developing digital skills it is important that employees are adaptive and able to respond to the next skills challenge. Those that can will be in high demand,” he said.

“Emerging technology development will require diverse thinking to ensure the fourth industrial revolution is representative of the population and doesn’t leave anybody behind as we reshape our economy,” he added.

Martyn Williams, managing director at industrial automation expert, COPA-DATA UK, told Internet of Business that by using IoT-enabled smart automation software, manufacturers are not just reaping the rewards of automated production, but gaining analytical visibility of the entire manufacturing operation.

“Machine-to-machine (M2M) communication generates a plethora of comprehensive data from the factory floor, all of which can be analyzed to help organizations make intelligent business decisions based on real-time statistics,” he said.