Recently, I created a simple illustration of office automation using orange juice (read it here). My idea was to show a simple picture of automation and job repurpose. Something like “your role changed, but wasn’t eliminated” stuff because I know companies that expanded their businesses without firing people.
For those businesses, automating some processes allowed them to do more with the actual people. It turned out the manual, repetitive, time-consuming tasks were holding them back. Here, automation eliminated bottlenecks, not jobs.
On the other side, automating some processes may lead to job losses. This is expected to happen when businesses are not growing, but looking to reduce costs. Here, automation can eliminate jobs, not bottlenecks.
From a return of investment — the famous ROI — perspective, is automation good or bad? As seen above, there is no one-size-fits-all answer and other variables should be considered. Depending on the industry we are working with, time to market, production constraints, even staff satisfaction come into play.
The equation seems very clear to me. If the business is growing, leverage automation to speed up processes and make more money (increasing revenue, reducing cost, or both). If the business is stagnant or shrinking, automation usually means “do the same with fewer people”. Either way, automation is a tool. It doesn’t matter for the person, who wants to drink natural orange juice, if you manually squeeze the oranges or use a juicer.
Looking at this from the juice maker business point of view, the tool to use matters. The juicer choice may represent more revenue (more juice available sooner, allowing more people to be served earlier) or less cost (cheaper to make juice for the same people), but this is a simplistic way to see. There are other variables to consider.
Like I mentioned before, job repurpose always existed. Stop blaming automation for changing your job. For the sake of your career, adapt and evolve.