Matt Migliore
Matt Migliore

In reading the cover story of the August 2013 issue of Flow Control, I was struck by the following sentence:

Imagine a facility that requires 30 percent fewer people, saves an average of 12 percent more energy, and reduces failures by 90 percent.

I suppose to some, this sounds like an ideal scenario. For me, the 12 percent energy savings and 90 percent reduction in failures sound great, but I’m concerned about the idea of 30 percent fewer people.

Certainly, here at Flow Control, we cover industrial automation on a regular basis. And clearly, I understand the aim of automation is to perform a process as efficiently as possible. I cannot begrudge a business for trying to optimize its process. Nor can I begrudge technology innovators for devising new and more efficient ways to do business.

That said, we’re living in a time where many folks here in the United States and worldwide are struggling to find jobs—let alone jobs that pay enough to adequately support their families. Considering this trend in the face of the continued rise of technology gives me pause.

The U.S. Census projects global population will increase 50 percent from 6 billion in 1999 to 9 billion by 2044. And while it’s in everybody’s best interest to ensure as many of these folks as possible are gainfully employed, I’m concerned that technology is evolving more quickly than we could have imagined. The question I have is, can we (i.e., humans) keep up?

The impact of automation on jobs is not a new topic of discussion, but I think this idea of whether we are doing enough to reposition ourselves for life in the age of technology deserves some more consideration. Many make the point that technology and automation systems create as many (if not more) new jobs as they take away. If we grant that this is indeed true, most would acknowledge that these new jobs require a higher level of education and technical knowhow than the jobs they are replacing.

So, the onus is on the worker to gain and/or refine their skillset. Seems reasonable, but in a time where the price point for higher education is higher than ever, is it really?

Knowledge has always been a key to success, but never moreso than it is today. As technology and automation systems continue to up the ante on the level of education required to “get the job,” we must consider how to make higher education more accessible. We must also consider if we are providing enough opportunity for those individuals who are being replaced by technology to reposition themselves for sustainable employment in the future.

Have thoughts on solutions to this issue? Email me at the address below.

Thanks for your readership,

— Matt Migliore
Executive Director of Content