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  • Mira Yossifova

Which industry is next to be fully automated?


When we talk about automation, we mean reshaping industries and activities to reach maximum output with minimum human input. Machines have been doing it for more than 100 years. The only difference is that now they're doing it faster than ever. Faster than we could catch up.

COVID-19 has accelerated the pace of automation even further. Industries are being reshaped earlier than we thought. The crisis is forcing companies to automate or risk being left behind. There are several types of automation, which will result in differentiating paths to automating industries. It may happen simultaneously, and that's why it is probably best to understand the different types of automation.

The basic types of industrial automation are:

  • Fixed automation is the process of automating basic, rudimentary, and repetitive tasks. The tasks are carried out without deviation like automated conveyor belts, food packaging, chemistry production, textile industry, etc. This type of automation is adopted very quickly because it cuts production time and costs. It also allows for the consistency of production.

  • Programmable automation runs through program commands and enables manufacturing processes to change, giving specific computer instructions based on changing needs. But, given the predetermined character of parameters, automated processes won't vary much. This type of automation is common for mass productions like automobile, machinery manufacturing, and food production with different variants of taste, for example. Programmable automation is also entering manufacturing quickly due to its ability to alternate mass production and achieve consistent results fast.

  • Flexible automation is the one that allows for a more flexible approach to manufacturing. The instructions are given by a human-operated computer, hence its flexible character. It allows for a fast change in setup, limiting the loss of time and productivity. This type of automation is mainly used in custom manufacturing, batch process manufacturing (e.g., pharmaceuticals), and continuous process manufacturing that offers consistent product manufacturing (beverages, oil, gas, etc.).

The jobs and industries that are automated vary in relation to the types of automation. Given the automation processes that are taking place, the top 5 industries to be automated in the next decade are:

  • Food Production

  • Agriculture

  • Data processing

  • Transportation and warehousing

  • Manufacturing

Some jobs are already lost forever. Others are currently in the process of also becoming obsolete. Along with this loss, new jobs emerge in relation to technological advancement. Nothing new. The problem now is that it is happening extremely fast, leaving much of the workforce unable to react. People in low-skilled, repetitive, and dangerous jobs are being displaced more quickly than they can upskill and reskill, leading to a vacuum on the labor market and social security systems worldwide. Unfortunately, the high and fast rate of people losing their jobs to automation leaves them few options for bettering their skills. States need to invest in skills acquisition or risk of leaving people unemployed for years. On the other hand, the risk of leaving high-demanding and new jobs unoccupied is also rising. Thus, the market vacuum we are starting to notice.

So, the answer to increasing automation is investing fast in a massive reskilling of the population and reforming educational systems to prepare today's children for tomorrow's job market.


Image: @macrovector

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