Automation and the “New Normal”

The coronavirus pandemic may dramatically shift the way we live and work. How will automation factor into our new normal post-pandemic? Here are three distinct areas predicted to be impacted.

One: Agriculture

Recent examples of agricultural plants closing have brought the need for automation to the forefront of the industry. A more fully automated food supply chain could prevent empty store shelves, long lines at food banks, and crops rotting in the fields. For example, workers at NatureFresh Farms don’t need to patrol the aisles of their 185 acres of greenhouses to see if crops are ripe. Instead, robotic cameras collect images of plants, feeding the data into AI algorithms that calculate exactly when blossoms will transform themselves into fully ripe vegetables.

Two: Customer service

Companies will now be less likely to cram agents into tightly packed call centers. Rather, customers will engage in self-service digital experiences to engage with the brands in their lives. The implementation of these AI and automation capabilities will also better prepare businesses for the next pandemic.

Three: Warehouses and fulfillment centers

Since the outbreak of the coronavirus, grocery stores have seen a double-digit increase in online orders. Many customers would rather order items from the safety of their own home than venture out to physical stores. Automation of the fulfillment process consists of 10,000-square-foot centers, which can be up and running in four months, and can hold up to 15,000 different products. So when customers place online orders, multiple robots are dispatched to gather items and bring them to a bagging station, no contact required.

As social distancing requirements may continue for a while, labor and robotics experts believe industries across the board will accelerate their use of automation. ARK Invests predicts that automation will add $800 billion to US GDP over the next 5 years and $12 trillion during the next 15 years. This trajectory would mean an overall 40% higher US GDP with automation than without it. As robots don’t get sick, production can continue even when humans cannot. This may reduce the likelihood of business shutdowns in the future as automation can create a more resilient organization. How will automation benefit your post-pandemic world?

 

Sources:

USA Today
VentureBeat
Wall Street Journal
New York Times
Singularity Hub 
Forrester

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