For anyone operating a business or considering starting one, automation is a topic well worth researching. Once a sort of futuristic vision that many viewed through a sci-fi-tinted lens, automation is now an ever-present reality, and one that’s poised to change the nature of innumerable businesses.In some cases, the changes are already occurring, and can help companies across all industries. For example, businesses today need to have strong digital marketing campaigns in order to acquire customers, and there are now automated data analysis technologies that can provide the information to drive those campaigns. Another example is in cash flow and financial management. We’ve covered ‘Cash Flow Management’ before, discussing that many businesses are already using multiple tools to track their finances, and now some of those tools can include automated in-house accounting and budgeting.There are plenty more examples like these, of how various forms of automation can help existing companies across a range of industries. On the other hand though, there are also industries that are set to be altered even more comprehensively by automation as well. In some cases, rather than serving a specific purpose like assisting with marketing strategy or financial management, automated functions will shape how entire businesses operate. Here are some noteworthy examples:
1. Food Services
Many who study artificial intelligence and automation will tell you that a lot of the fears people have about humans losing jobs to robots are overblown — or at least that the job losses will be offset by new opportunities that arise in support of automated systems. However, the food service industry is one in which “robots” really might take over most jobs in time. In 2018, The Atlantic looked into robots transforming fast food, highlighting everything from Japanese humanoids preparing pancakes to a “boxy robot” named Sally that can prepare boxed salads. Functions like these can go well beyond fast food, such that we can actually imagine a near future food service industry in which waiters, cooks and cashiers are all automated in one way or another.
Hospitality is an expansive category, but it’s expected that some service-related jobs in hotels in particular will ultimately be turned over to robots and automated systems. In fact, this idea was included in the previous article from The Atlantic; it cited research by a partner at McKinsey Global Institute estimating that 54% of the tasks workers perform in American restaurants and hotels could already be automated with existing tech. Conceptually at least, there’s no reason for that number to apply only to hotel workers, either. In a relatively short time, we may see many hospitality jobs being fulfilled by robotic entities.
Looking to another kind of business altogether, it also seems increasingly likely that large-scale investment operations will transition from human to automated operation. Already, advanced algorithms are used to dictate many investment practices, and analysis by FXCM suggests that robots could be up next. This analysis was looking specifically at the forex market, which is already home to some “forex robots” — computer programs that execute trades automatically, based on predetermined criteria designed by a trader. The analysis acknowledges both pros and cons to these forex robots (pros including precision and a lack of emotion, cons primarily being potential for bugs or hacks). But all in all it makes clear that the business of investing is steadily moving toward deeper degrees of automation.
“One day the world’s mines may be operated almost entirely by machines.” That’s a line from an NBC piece on robots beginning to replace humans in mines around the world, and clearly it points to another industry in which we could see significant changes. The piece is primarily about why this change is occurring in mining, and the answer is fairly straightforward: safety. Even with modern equipment and precautions, mining can be a dangerous business, and automated equipment removes the risk of injury to humans. That’s not to say we’ve completely reached a point at which automated equipment can perform all of the tasks human miners can — but there appears to be motivation to move in that direction, and there are some automated machines working in mines today.
Here as with hospitality we have a very widespread industry, and we are not suggesting that automation will completely take over. At least for the foreseeable future there will still be human doctors and nurses, researchers and pharmacists, and so on. However, automation is undeniably beginning to shape the healthcare industry. From implants and wearables that automatically record patients’ health information, to more intelligent teaching tools, to robotic surgical equipment, there are related innovations in virtually every corner of the industry — and many believe we’ve only begun to see what automation in healthcare can do.These examples may or may not relate to your own business pursuits. However, they do indicate the scale at which automation is beginning to affect industries. This is something to be mindful of, and perhaps even try to take advantage of as you look to succeed with your own business — whatever industry it may be in.