Industry Insight: Role reversal - how AI could make your job more respected and better paid
The robots are coming. And they are going to take your job.
That’s the usual rhetoric surrounding increasing automation, and in particular the emergence of radically new technology such as artificial intelligence.
But while any technological revolution prompts fears about reduced employment, the experience with AI so far suggest more and higher value jobs will be created than lost.
A recent Capgemini survey of 1,000 organisations deploying AI found that four out of five of them have created additional employment opportunities. The feeling from the Capgemini report, as with others before, is that AI will take on repetitive and mundane tasks, freeing up human for other activities.
Such a shift in job-spec has already occurred where new technologies have been applied. Many manufacturing firms have, for instance, already undergone a period of digitalisation, driven by adoption of the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT). Here, networks of sensors in combination with data analytics are delivering vastly improved visibility of wide range of plant and machinery across the factory floor.
Interestingly, this trend towards automation hasn’t resulted in the death of jobs for maintenance workers, whose traditional roles have been restricted to fixing equipment once it is broken.
Instead, the use of IIoT infrastructure and the introduction of new technologies such as augmented reality and wearables is transforming maintenance positions, making them less about mending assets, and much more about preventing equipment from failing in the first place.
Reading data and taking action is not the same profile as changing parts on a machine, and subsequently the maintenance engineer is morphing into a reliability professional. The change in title and job description is delivering a move up the hierarchical chain, with maintenance workers holding more influence as access to wider data streams puts them at the heart of new business models.
In the building services sector, meanwhile, IIoT infrastructure – linked with AI capability – is delivering next-generation heating, ventilation and air-conditioning equipment (HVAC). These systems employ machine learning to analyse patterns of data over time, providing early warning of maintenance problems and pinpointing areas where improvements in energy-efficiency can be made.
Again, highly-skilled engineers who were previously charged with overseeing repair schedules of HVAC equipment across major industrial and commercial sites are now better employed performing higher level analytics to prevent failure in the first place.
These are interesting developments. They show that AI should be viewed as less of a cause of job losses in industrial sectors, and more as the creator of valued and varied tasks.
In short, there’s no denying that the robots are coming. But perhaps we should all be thankful for that.
*TAG has published a whitepaper outlining advances in artificial intelligence. The document, entitled March of the Machines: The Use of AI in the Smarter Factories and Buildings of Tomorrow, is available for free download by visiting our B2B Marketing Insights library located on the left handside of this page.
Lee Hibbert, Industry Analyst and Content Director, Technical Associates Group (Editor of Professional Engineering, February 2010 - January 2016)
Follow Lee on Twitter for all the latest engineering insights: https://twitter.com/leehibbert1.