Intelligent machines increasingly scooting across America’s floors just how. Companies use automated transporters to move packages without a human forklift driver. A few years ago, their adoption would have meant a layoff. These days, it means a promotion.
“People are so needed that it’s nearly impossible to displace a good worker,” says John Hayes, Charlotte, North Carolina-based vice president of sales and marketing at Vecna Robotics, which makes mechanized helpers for manufacturers and shippers. “What they’re looking to do is automate the simplest of functions — point-to-point transfers — take those people, and move them to more value-added .”
Early in a business cycle, productivity-enhancing investments can spell trouble for workers: “streamlining” and “efficiency” can sound a lot like “unemployment” to some observers. But in this tight labor , technology investment could improve productivity and give companies room to raise wages without eroding profit. And employees transferred to more training-intensive positions could see their future career prospects improve.
“Workers are more likely to reap the gains from productivity when they have more bargaining power,” said Nick Bunker, a Washington-based economist at hiring website who focuses on the U.S. labor market.
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