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Home  > Publications  > Blog  > Can robots do your job already?

Saturday, 18 November 2017

Can robots do your job already?

Wednesday, 23 November 2016 | Posted by: Jan Gesthuizen, European Coatings Journal

Are you on the cusp of retirement or do you have more than a decade to work in the coatings industry? If you belong to the first group, then read no further. As for everyone else, I would like to ask you if your job is safe and secure or will it soon be done by a computer?

I'm pretty sure that my job  can't be automated. But yours probably is – and to quite a large extent. I’m not saying this just to annoy you. As part of at themed week on the future of work, ARD, a national German TV station, has put up a website on which you can check whether and to what extent your profession can be automated (it’s only in German).

Who needs lab technicians?

Now, this so-called "Job-Futuromat” is not perfect and its results are just a rough approximation. However, they are extremely interesting and they do give pause for thought. Apparently, based on the current state of the art, an unbelievable 80% of the activities performed by a coatings lab technician could be automated.

Now, perhaps you don’t work in a lab. Maybe you’re on a different hierarchical level. Let’s assume you work as a coatings engineer. Well, the bad news is that even 45% of those job’s activities could be automated. In a nutshell: almost every second job could be done by a machine. And that figure only reflects the current state of the art. So, there’s still room for it to go upwards.

The "Job-Futuromat” utilizes the job descriptions of nearly 4,000 occupations which are recognised by the Federal German Agency for Labour and were evaluated for their automatability by the Institute for Labour Market and Vocational Research. It goes without saying that the evaluations could be disputed. But when I cast my eye over those activities which were deemed non-automatable, I did come across one or the other that certainly could be done by a machine. I therefore tend to believe that the database errs overall on the side of caution.

Don't be just afraid

I’m not saying that that you should be afraid of automation. In my heart of hearts, I am a trade unionist and so I’m naturally wondering if mass unemployment is looming. And yet, automation offers huge potential and opportunities abound. On one hand, machines are simply better than we humans at performing certain activities. That’s nothing new and things have always been like that. Up to now, automation has generally led to cheaper or to higher-quality products. Thanks to modern technology, it is also encroaching into several more-complex types of work.

And that is freeing up resources which can be put to thoroughly good use. For companies which do not regard Industry 4.0 merely as a rationalization programme for doing away with employees’ jobs, this is a chance to come up trumps in terms of innovative strength and flexibility.

If you’ve already gained practical experiences with Industry 4.0, we’d love you to share them with us. For, although ARD did sterling work on this topic, we’d prefer to have the coatings industry’s inside view on Industry 4.0.

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