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Automation: what it means for companies

The fourth industrial revolution – the automation of our working world – is almost upon us. In the future, machines will be smart, autonomous and networked. This is about efficiency in its purest form. But what will it mean for the world of work? How can we benefit from automation?

Automation Is Everywhere

From electronic train tickets to smartphone payments – automation affects us all, young and old alike. In principle, the aim is to replace human labor with machines. Examples can be found in the retail, the finance and the public transport sector. Only recently, Swiss Federal Railways (SBB) announced the introduction of e-ticket machines. Supermarkets such as Migros and Coop have been making use of automation for some time; self-scanners enable customers to do the entire shopping process themselves.

Another sector is healthcare. State-of-the-art Da Vinci operating robots, for example, are used in many large hospitals. While the robot does not operate autonomously, it does remove the natural trembling of the human hand.

How Companies Benefit from Automation

The rapid pace of technological progress holds great potential for companies. Essentially, employers can benefit from automation in two ways:

  1. Robot-based automation
    Here it’s all about taking human tasks which are repetitive and structured and handing them over to robots, which means that we humans will no longer have to do these monotonous tasks.
  2. Intelligent automation
    In this case, automation is used for intelligent tasks in the field of networked thinking. For example, machines can communicate with other machines or directly with customers.

Automation Is Improving Health Care Services

Robot-based and intelligent automation offer the following advantages in medical diagnostics and research:

  • An immediate increase in efficiency
    Thanks to comprehensive data acquisition, it is easy to identify inefficient – or superfluous – elements within a process. With the right technology, processes (e.g. data analysis) which previously took hours can often be completed in minutes or even seconds. This includes, for example, blood analyses for rapid diagnosis.
  • An immediate improvement in quality
    Automated processes in hospitals do not suffer from fatigue or inattention. This results in process flows without interruptions and a higher success rate for interventions and diagnosis. We increasingly rely on machines in this field, particularly in routine surgery.
  • Strict observance of compliance requirements
    Automation ensures compliance with statutory requirements and reduces the risk of regulatory lapses.1 In the medical industry, modern software ensures that patients sign all the necessary documentation before surgery, which helps ensure a safe hospital stay.2

The future is not about eliminating physicians, it’s about leveraging physicians by providing them with electronic and other devices.

James Madara, MD, Executive Vice President und CEO, American Medical Assotiation (AMA), AMA-Jahrestagung, 11. Juni 2016

Automated Co-Workers – a Threat or a Benefit for Humans?

Given the facts set out above, the burning question is whether human labor will be needed at all in the future. At first glance, it seems that automation will lead to a reduction in the number of job profiles – in other words, some job types will become obsolete. However, current studies demonstrate the opposite.1 If the skills of both man and machine are integrated into a business process, productivity rises thanks to more streamlined processes, which means increased scope on the pricing front.

It is already clear that the way we work and produce goods today will change fundamentally in the years to come. The driving force behind this trend is the increasingly rapid digitalization of the economy and society – the physical and digital worlds are growing ever closer together. While many tasks and familiar activities that have developed over the years will change or perhaps even disappear.

At the same time, opportunities will open up for entirely new areas of business. This includes 3D printers, which will make life easier for architects. Automated emails which are personalized on the basis of a recipient’s online activities are another example from everyday life. Last but not least, apps can be used to pay bills in seconds via a smartphone photo function.

Industrial Revolution 4.0

This is not the first time that a change of this kind has taken place. Humanity experienced fundamental changes during the first, second and third industrial revolutions and reaped enormous benefits from the process. The exciting thing about the fourth industrial revolution is that we are going to experience it at first hand and that we will be able to influence and shape it through our personal and business interactions.

the-four-phases-of-the-industrial-revolution

The Four Phases of the Industrial Revolution

Source: NZZ

Potential Benefits for Investors

The health care system now stands on the threshold of a technical revolution. Credit Suisse researchers are predicting that technological advances will bring fundamental change to the healthcare system over the next ten years and make up for lost time.

There is no other sector in which the advantages of automation are as clear as in medicine: from research and development, innovative treatment methods and therapies right through to hospital efficiency, health monitoring and early diagnosis systems. This trend will help to limit rising healthcare costs over the long term. With a projected growth rate of 15% p.a., digital healthcare is one of the fastest growing segments within the sector.

The trend towards automation is not only apparent in the healthcare sector. Other sectors are also increasingly focusing on automation and placing ever greater emphasis on this field. Credit Suisse Research also sees growth potential in the financial, logistics and IT sectors.