There is talk of automation in the air- from software solutions to the shop floor. How will it affect jobs when so many people are unemployed during this crisis

When India is handling a once-in-a-century pandemic, countries, and factories are going into lockdown again. Industrialists clamored a virtual representation demanding factories to operate. But it is very difficult to start, stop and re-start. Problem is not the lockdown, it will stay for a week, a major concern is to back-up the supply chain again across the country. Whereas in Karnataka, factories were allowed to operate but to manage the start-stop situation brings the industries captains the biggest drop. On the other hand, different manufacturers suspend their work temporarily as their employees were tested positive to Covid-19. 

Such disturbance in the industry causes the Indian factories to bend towards the automation sector. A drastic change is forthcoming in the Indian industries where companies usually preferred cheap labor in comparison to expensive machines. But now every small and large company is adapting to new technologies to work with. It seems like Automation will be the one in the majority post the pandemic. This will boost India’s technology sector. However, it will gradually reduce the dependence on manual labor. Thus, an increase in unemployment, especially for the poor.

In the past months, companies selling automation tools saw a sudden increase in demand.

Machine, unlike men, can ensure contact-less manufacturing fulfilling the social distancing rules. Companies like Universal Robots and Milagrow HumaTech saw an increase in sales as compared to the same period last year. FMCG sectors are reporting 10-15% growth in the inquiries for robot makers and medical equipment sectors to show 50% growth in inquiries. Milagrow sales of vacuum cleaner grow by up to 400% in the June quarter.

On the other hand, software companies like IBM also saw a three to four-fold increase in the middle-sized and large-sized companies enrolling for the automated process. Understandably, the pace of automation in Indian industries are boosting. The back-office operations such as accounting, HR, payroll processing, were already in the process of getting automated. Now, the automation in the front-office operations is also accelerating. Soon, all the operations will be used by machines. The harsh reality is that, though it will provide a job opportunity for those who know machines and automation because of their regular maintenance and updating. But what about the manual labor workforce, who does not have such advance knowledge. One robot can easily replace three or more people. 

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In the study by MGI in 2019, it was estimated that about 44 million men and 12 million women will be replaced by the acceleration in automation technology by 2030. It appears that due to the sudden spread of Covid-19 and businesses to re-open, this displacement will occur much sooner. Robotic process automation will replace the white-collar worker, Robotics on the factory floor will replace the blue-collar workers and Home automation will replace millions of “maids”.

While the automated future is necessary India will have to go through difficult adjustments where the manual workforce will be the one highly effective. They will require some upskilling in the tech field. This can be good as many individuals will be open to more skills. India already has some automated or smart factories, including MNCs and large companies. They have invested in various greenfield plants that comply with Industry 4.0 architecture. While many countries are already working on technologies like smart cities and IoT. Now India will be open to all of that with the integration of operational technologies and information technologies providing India with technologies like smart sensors, Internet of Things, collaborative robots, cloud computing, human-machine interface, 3D printing, AI, and many more.

Now, auto component generator such as GE’s precision in Pune, Bosch Ltd. automation plant is Biladi, Volvo Groups in Madhya Pradesh, and many more are expected to take a lead. The large companies can adopt these technologies unlike them, small companies do not have much knowledge about Industry 4.0, and they even find it too capital intensive. 

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