Almost half of businesses in Ireland (48pc) have automated business functions or are in the process of replacing people with software and machines, according to new research.
According to data from the Grant Thornton International Business Report (IBR), this is slightly behind the global average of 55pc. A further 24pc of Irish businesses state that they may automate processes in the next 12 months.
These companies are principally looking for greater accuracy and efficiency in production (67pc), and enhanced flexibility to increase or decrease production (50pc).
The findings suggest that some jobs will go as a result, with one-in-four businesses expecting automation will lead to a reduction in headcount, and with capital costs low as labour costs rise, the findings pose fundamental questions about the implications of advancing technologies on the workforce.
Businesses have to decide between staff or robots
“In this digital age, businesses are looking to technology at an ever-increasing pace,” Fergus Condon, partner and tech sector leader at Grant Thornton said.
“Post the financial crisis, firms continue to strive for greater efficiency and better productivity. With costs of capital low and labour costs increasing, as businesses consider whether to invest in staff or machines, for many, the latter is becoming the more cost-effective option.”
Further research conducted by Grant Thornton uncovered increasing business spend on research and development – underpinning the growth in automation. In 2011, 19pc of Irish businesses said they were planning to boost R&D spend and that increased to 23pc in 2014, somewhat behind the global figure of 28pc.
‘While some job losses will occur as technological advances increasingly transform both the private and the public sector, technology will complement and enhance human capabilities’
– FERGUS CONDON
“Technology is part of our lives in ways we couldn’t have imagined two decades ago, from the rise of big data to the app revolution,” Condon said.
“That trend will continue and it means the shape and size of workforces of the future will look radically different to those of today. How businesses and governments deal with these changes will be critical to long-term economic growth prospects.
“While some job losses will occur as technological advances increasingly transform both the private and the public sector, technology will complement and enhance human capabilities, increasing both the quality and quantity of our efforts,” Condon said.
Robot image via Shutterstock
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