Automation 2020

What’s the big news in automation for the first year of this brave new decade? Forrester, a top research company, has some predictions.

Everything easy has already been automated

Automation is ubiquitous. But many of the things that we haven’t yet automated won’t be fully automated in 2020. Much of the new technology in drive and control systems and robotics is still at the proof of concept stage.

This means that automation islands — automated tasks that can’t communicate with one another — threaten productivity. Getting from one automation island to the next is the challenge. Will it be a job for IT or for human facilitators? It depends on the organization.

Either way, integration will be the goal for many manufacturers.

Data literacy must be a priority

Fewer human workers will be able to avoid dealing with data. Resistance will be futile — but could be problematic for many companies anyway.

Training has been a pain point and a source of controversy for many companies in recent years, and the need for greater data literacy across the workforce will just make that situation worse.

Security challenges will grow along with the growth of AI and machine learning in industry. Alongside these security issues, Forrester expects that we’ll see a backlash in consumer privacy. People will be less willing to accept a trade of privacy for convenience and moire likely to see their data as valuable property. Increasing understanding of privacy and data issues will impact the workforce, too.

Automation will change the workforce

Everything easy has already been automated, so we won’t see wholesale automation in factories: it’s already happened. But Forrester predicts that office jobs will be reduced by nearly 4% in 2020. Skilled machine operators and other tech jobs are expected to increase by .62%. Human-specific jobs requiring empathy, mental and physical agility, and cross-domain knowledge will increase, too.

That means, first, that we won’t see a one-to-one correspondence between the jobs that are lost and the jobs that need to be filled. The guy in the cubicle turning out reports probably can’t step into the position needed to train data literacy on the factory floor. Chances are good that manufacturers will be laying off people with one skill set while seeking frantically for people with another skill set.

Forrester expects that the new jobs created by increasing automation will pay more than those eliminated by automation, so it’s a good thing from an admin point of view that there will be fewer of those jobs. But it might not be a great thing from the workers’ point of view.


Change is always exciting. At the same time, when you need support or service for your Rexroth industrial motion control systems, you want stability. We’ve been your Rexroth specialists for decades, and that won’t change. Contact us for all your service needs.

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