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What’s the manufacturing job killer, automation or trade? – PolitiFact

The Democratic debate in Ohio stirred up a heated exchange on a basic economic question: Did robots hollow out American manufacturing?

Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., has said that blaming job losses on automation is a myth, and CNNs Erin Burnett pressed her to explain why workers in Ohio shouldnt be worried.

"We have had a lot of problems with losing jobs, but the principal reason is bad trade policy," Warren said. "The principal reason has been a bunch of giant multinational corporations who have been calling the shots on trade."

Entrepreneur Andrew Yang shot back that the Americans he talks to are very worried about automation.

"They see a self-serve kiosk in every McDonalds, every grocery store, every CVS," Yand said. "My friends are piloting self-driving trucks. What does that mean for the 3.5 million truckers, or 7 million Americans who work in truck stops, motels and diners that rely upon the truckers getting out and having a meal? Saying this is a rules problem is ignoring the reality that Americans see every day."

The reality is that the research backs up both candidates. Trade may well have done more than automation to shrink Americas factory workforce. On the other hand, automation, computers and robots can and have cost people their jobs.

Manufacturing takes a hit

Tracking manufacturing jobs data shows the moment they nosedived in America. It was right around 2000.

The fall after 2000 was so sharp, its clear something happened at about that time. Many economists point to China winning permanent "most favored nation" trade status. Chinese imports to the United States grew rapidly, while many American firms shifted production to low-wage factories overseas.

Warren relies on a 2018 study from the Upjohn Institute that looks at the role that trade and automation played in driving down manufacturing employment. One of the explanations is that American firms invested in robots and other technology that replaced humans with machines.

But Susan Houseman of the Upjohn Institute rebutted the automation theory. If robots killed jobs, she argued, the country should have many robots. Instead "the adoption of industrial robots has been limited," Houseman wrote. "The effects of automation in manufacturing were most prominent in the 1980s and had greatly diminished by the 2000s."

As the chart above shows, after the automation surge, manufacturing employment held fairly steady through the 1990s.

Houseman also reported that apparent rises in productivity often used to explain falling factory jobs are more a statistical fluke than a real phenomenon. That might seem totally academic and esoteric, but it lies at the heart of Yangs rebuttal to Warren.

Yangs campaign pointed to a 2017 study from Ball State University economists that found that productivity gains accounted for nearly 90% of manufacturing job losses between 2000 and 2010. Houseman challenged that, noting that the study showed five times as many jobs "not filled due to productivity" in the computer industry as the actual number of jobs lost, a result she called "absurd."

We cant resolve the dispute.

Other analysts have noted that countries with a larger fraction of manufacturing workers than the United States, such as Germany, South Korea and Japan, all have more industrial robots per capita. Automation by itself, they argue, didnt seem to undercut factory workers there.

Automation as disruptor

To some extent, Warren and Yang might have been talking past each other. Yangs point had as much to do with non-manufacturing jobs, like cashiers, as factory work.

In that light, a 2018 analysis, "Will robots really steal our jobs?", from Price Waterhouse Cooper, an international accounting firm, paints a picture where many jobs could be at risk.

Their report lays out three waves of automation. The first has been going on for awhile and is more computational, like the scanners at the grocery store. The second gets into moving things around, like robots in warehouses. The third is much more complex, with decisions made on the fly in real world situations. That is the scenario where self-driving trucks replace human truck drivers.

That third wave is about 10 years off. The threat is real, though.

"In the long run, less well-educated workers could be particularly exposed to automation," the report said. "We do not believe, contrary to some predictions, that automation will lead to mass technological unemployment by the 2030s any more than it has done in the decades since the digital revolution began. Nonetheless, automation will disrupt labor markets."

In their ranking of sectors most likely to be rocked by automation, transportation and storage, followed by manufacturing and construction are at the top, with at least 40% of the jobs in those areas at high risk.

For manufacturing, strong forces will drive much of that change as low-wage countries will continue to attract new factories.

"For economically advanced countries, competing on the cost-side of production is very difficult," wrote Darrell West and Chrstian Lansang with the Brookings Institution. "In order for these countries to keep their manufacturing sectors flourishing, value unlocked through robots, artificial intelligence, and the use of Big Data is essential."

Economist Teresa Fort at Dartmouth College said the relative impacts of trade and automation change from place to place and line of business. Pointing to the steel industry, Fort said, "we dont need as many workers to create the same amount of output." Thats a technology effect.

But in other areas, such as small home appliances, the flood of Chinese imports drove the trend.

"It really is not possible to tease apart the trade versus technology channels," Fort said. "This is because technology can lead to trade, and because trade can lead firms to adopt new technologies."

So both Warren and Yang have their points. Trade shaped the past and will shape the future. Automation does put jobs at risk, but it isnt divorced from trade itself, and under the right conditions, it can bolster manufacturing jobs, not undercut them.

For Fort, the trade versus automation debate is a red herring. They both, she said, rearrange the returns for different kinds of work, and many people will end up on the short end of the change.

"If we care about peoples well-being, we should stop debating whether trade or technology led to the loss of certain jobs, and instead focus on how to recognize and facilitate the transition into new job opportunities," Fort said.

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What's the manufacturing job killer, automation or trade? - PolitiFact

UiPath Offers Software Robot Automation As An Application – Forbes

The drive to digitize work tasks with software-based 'robots' could allow some people to work better.

Every technology company wants a slice of the Artificial Intelligence (AI) pie. More accurately, every tech company wants to show that it has a healthy AI development stream bringing the benefits of Machine Learning (ML) to bear across its software stack. A key part of that artificial (and real) intelligence quotient today is focused on so-called Robotic Process Automation (RPA).

As a practice, RPA is focused on being able to automate a users most repetitive computing tasks. At its most basic, RPA is little more than screen-scraping i.e. a computer program dedicated to watching a users interactions with icons and input fields on a screen in order to be able to emulate those steps as a pre-programmed single method, when instructed. At higher levels, RPA is more intelligent and more intuitive as it starts to also take on an appreciation for business logic and more complex levels of operational complexity. This is where RPA is headed and this is why its often now called iRPA, with the i standing for intelligent.

Where many technology vendors now feature extensive AI technology divisions, UiPath specializes in it. The company, as detailed by Forbes Alex Konrad here, is an RPA purist focused on supporting end-to-end automation processes inside organizations. From UiPaths perspective, effectively engineered RPA is the road to AI itself in business.

But as with so many technologies, implementing some is comparatively straightforward and implementing lots (i.e. at a wider enterprise scale) is challenging. This is because what works well on one (or just a few) computers doesnt always work well on many. When we scale up, we need more pipeline space for all the data to flow through, we need to be able to accommodate for user peaks and troughs cost effectively, we need to be able to shoulder interconnected computing tasks that require much higher degrees of networked analytics, we need to be able go one louder without blowing out the amplifier, basically. This is one of the key aspects of making RPA happen in the real world that UiPath has set out to tackle in its latest platform release.

Automation as an application

The latest RPA offerings from the company promise to provide an ability to scale automation initiatives at speed all from a single platform. In its latest software release, UiPath is delivering automation as the core application for users across the enterprise, enabling potentially every user, regardless of their technical proficiency, the option to automate part of their work without the need for developer resources or coding.

When people ask me why RPA has experienced such explosive growth, I say: because it works.

Automation as an application then? Yes. So when you need a word processor: your application is Microsoft Word, LibreOffice or Google Docs. When you need a database: your application is SAP, Oracle or the smorgasbord of open source offerings in this space. When you need a data visualization tool: your application is Tableau, Tibco Spotfire, or perhaps Sisense. When you need automation: well, you get the picture. That being said, UiPath obviously has its competitors and the company comes up against Automation Anywhere, Blue Prism, Nice and EdgeVerge Systems as competitors on the quadrant.

"When people ask me why RPA has experienced such explosive growth, I say: because it works. When you look at some older applications such as VisiCalc, these technologies were complicated and often created more work. By contrast, RPA is designed from the start to make work easier. But if you look at our business and how we have grown and differentiated ourselves as a company, we are probably marked out because we did everything wrong as a startup. We had no direct vision for our RPA technology proposition when we started and we were just focused on creating Software Development Kits (SDKs) at the time. What we did was build our RPA technology because we were just interested in the product as software engineers, not because we had a formally identified go-to-market strategy. If I ever build another start up, I may follow a more traditional route to development and first identify a customer base and then fail-fast to refine and create the final product, said UiPath co-founder and CEO Daniel Dines.

The last mile of getting any product to the user in a form that they can truly benefit from is the hardest and Dines insists that the firm did get that part right from the start. He has further stated that in the automation first era, automation is the application and Dines thinks that were at the tipping point.

We are excited to now deliver on this potential, enabling continuous human-robot interaction, transforming complex processes that span multiple applications and multiple systems of record and delivering real business transformation, added Dines.

The UiPath RPA platform

The UiPath Platform has so far featured three key components: UiPath Studio (a designer tool), UiPath Orchestrator (software that acts as an overseeing control tower and helps implement security) and UiPath Robots (tools that work both attended and unattended software robot bots). Going forward, the company is looking to apply RPA and AI to more complex processes.

New products from the company include the UiPath Explorer product family. This is software designed to accelerate process (as in work processes) understanding and the creation of automation pipelines. The product is built on some of the new technologies that UiPath brought to bear when it acquired ProcessGold and StepShot. The technology here works to identify, document, analyze and prioritize work processes, with an ability to understand both front-line and back-end operations, through scientific and visual analysis.

Other new additions to the platform include UiPath StudioX for Citizen Developers. StudioX allows subject-matter experts to automate work without the need for developer resources or coding. Another new addition, UiPath Apps works to enable continuous human-robot interaction across entire processes. With the software, end-users can participate in real-time with robots executing unattended processes, allowing users to manage approvals and exceptions; a capability UiPath refers to as Human-in-the-Loop (HITL). Also here, UiPath Insights provides embedded analytics that measure, report and align RPA operations with strategic business outcomes.

Also in terms of products in this set, UiPath Connect Enterprise works to bring every employee into the process of uncovering automation opportunities. The company says that building a pipeline of automations should not always come from analyzing user activity or system logs, but from human judgement. With this tool, every employee can introduce ideas for automations or create a gamification capability, which is said to be ideal for creating Robotic Operations Centers of Excellence to collect opportunities. Finally then, UiPaths AI Fabric software claims to be able to break down the barriers between RPA and data science teams and helps customers operationalize and consume their machine learning models directly in RPA workflows.

We have essentially removed all barriers to scaling in the automation first era. Business leaders everywhere are augmenting their workforces with software robots freeing employees to spend time on more impactful work, said Param Kahlon, chief product officer at UiPath. With the addition of the UiPath Explorer, UiPath Apps and UiPath Insights families, we are making it easy for more business professionals across the enterprise to interact with robots, including [less technical] citizen developers, business analysts and end-users throughout both the front and back-office.

What RPA needs next

So RPA is truly fabulous and are all of our working lives now going to get so much easier really soon? Well yes and no. The technology is here, but humans have got to get used to human-robot interactions work processes inside real companies have got to shape to these new advantages and that wont happen overnight and we need to assess which elements of work we should still connect human-to-human rather than human-to-robot.

Humans have an endorphin boost when they do something different. Scientists recommend that we do something different every day, or drive home on a different route or simply put our watch (if we still wear one) on a different wrist. If we free ourselves from the mundane elements of work through automation then, in the theory at least, we can experience more positive endorphin rushes.

Human beings have got to want RPA for it to work and they have to want it not because theyre lazy, they need to want it because it improves job satisfaction and allows them to do other higher value work. Without that transparency and purity, automation isnt intelligence, its just robotics and machinery and were already past that part of the industrial revolution.

UiPath co-founder and CEO Daniel Dines: We built our RPA technology because we were just interested in the product as software engineers, not because we had a formally identified go-to-market strategy.

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UiPath Offers Software Robot Automation As An Application - Forbes

New Study Warns That Automation Threatens The Future Of Black Workers In America – Forbes

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A recent report from the consulting giant McKinsey & Company paints a startling yet critically-important picture of how automation will impact the American workforce in 2030.

In this context, the term automation refers to equipment, technology and process innovations that make the effort from humans less necessary or entirely irrelevant.

When the firm conducted a deeper dive into how specific groups will be affected, one data point became clear: African Americans likely will have one of the highest rates of job displacement, compared to other groups.

Why is this happening and what interventions and solutions can we consider to make things better? Well investigate all those things below.

However, Ill preface by saying as a black man in the technology industry, its become clear to me that with all the excitement of innovation and bleeding-edge technology available to all consumers, we need to balance that with a healthy view of all the long-term risks and liabilities that may be at stake.

The recently published McKinsey article, titled The Future of Work in Black America, used proprietary data to study how automation could influence and disrupt Americans across 13 different archetypes, or groups of people with various similarities, across geographic, income and demographic segments.

For large portions of the black community, the findings may be concerning.

Key Summary Points From The Report

Reasons Behind This Worrisome Trend

Potential Solutions To Help Us Course-Correct

Fortunately, the report wasnt all doom-and-gloom. The researchers compiled a list of potential actions that could help curb the racial disparity of disruption felt from automation. While not exhaustive, the list provides a starting point of action for state and federal government, hiring employers and black employees who seek more stability.

Moving Forward

McKinseys detailed look at the projected disparity in economic wealth and job stability provides us with a runway of time to begin addressing the underlying challenges and enact solutions to fix them. Like with any looming crisis, clear and collective action is needed to give everyone an equal shot at success in America.

Regardless of what role you play in society, you have an opportunity to help us get one step closer to a level playing field. Employers, hiring managers, investors, teachers, admissions officers, and local, state or federal workers can all contribute to a brighter tomorrow. What small step will you take to solve this problem?

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New Study Warns That Automation Threatens The Future Of Black Workers In America - Forbes

Democratic debate: The fight about automation and job losses, explained – Vox.com

Democrats tackled several issues on the debate stage Tuesday night that had previously gone untouched. One of those was automation the idea that robots and technology will replace workers and destroy jobs.

It prompted a confusing discussion about whether automation is actually killing jobs or whether free trade policies are. And it didnt offer up much of a clear answer.

CNN moderator Erin Burnett cited a study predicting that a quarter of US jobs will be lost from automation, then asked a few of the candidates what they would do to prevent such job losses.

Sen. Bernie Sanders said guaranteeing a federally funded job for every person is one solution. Andrew Yang pointed to his universal basic income plan. But things got testy when the moderator turned to Sen. Elizabeth Warren, who downplayed the impact of automation on jobs:

The reason is bad trade policy. The reason has been a bunch of giant multinational corporations who have been calling the shots on trade. Giant multinational corporations that have no loyalty to America. They have no loyalty to American workers. They have no loyalty to American consumers. They have no loyalty to American communities. They are loyal only to their own bottom line. I have a plan to fix that. Its accountable capitalism. You want to have one of the giant corporations in America? Then 40 percent of your board of directors should be elected by your employees. That will make a difference when a corporation decides, We could save a nickel by moving a job to Mexico.

Yang didnt like that answer. His entire campaign for universal basic income is based on the idea that robots will take away everyones livelihood.

Senator Warren, I have been talking to Americans around the country about automation. They are smart. They see whats happening around them. The stores are closing, Yang responded. They see a self-serve kiosk in every grocery store, every CVS. Driving a truck is the most common job in 29 states, 3.5 million truck drivers in this country. My friends are piloting self-driving trucks.

Whether or not machines or free trade are responsible for destroying US jobs is an understandable disagreement. Economists have been having this same discussion for decades, ever since President Bill Clinton signed the North American Free Trade Agreement in 1994, which opened up free trade between Canada, Mexico, and the United States for the first time.

Heres the truth: Neither automation nor trade policies are responsible for overall job losses in the past few decades, generally speaking. But globalization (a.k.a. free trade) is more to blame for the decline of manufacturing jobs in the US than automation is.

Another thing: No one has any clue how many future jobs may be lost to automation; the estimates vary wildly and the methodology for trying to guess is questionable.

Lets break it down.

The reason why so many people say robots will take our jobs one day is because thats what economists and politicians have believed for the longest time. They worried that subway ticket machines would cause mass unemployment in the transportation industry. They also worried that concrete mixers would lead to fewer construction jobs. Those fears never materialized.

In the 1990s and 2000s (post-NAFTA), there was a sharp decline in factory jobs and it coincided with a huge surge in productivity. So factories were producing more or the same, but with far fewer workers. That led economists to believe that technology was displacing workers and creating more efficiencies that, in turn, made factories more productive with fewer employees. But they could never prove that automation was the direct cause.

Recent research suggests this theory of displacement is wrong. A 2018 study by economist Susan Houseman at the W.E. Upjohn Institute for Employment Research explains that the surge in productivity has been limited to the computer and electronics industry.

Without the computer industry, there is no prima facie evidence that productivity caused manufacturings relative and absolute employment decline, Houseman writes. In her paper, she also reviewed the latest research on the subject and concluded that trade significantly contributed to the collapse of manufacturing employment in the 2000s, but finds little evidence of a causal link to automation.

Just take a look at NAFTA. In the US, NAFTA didnt lower overall US wages as some feared, but it was linked to lower wages in some manufacturing jobs. The trade deal was also directly responsible for the loss of more than 840,000 US factory jobs, most of which were moved to Mexico. Just last year, Ford announced it was closing one of its auto factories and opening another one in Mexico.

US companies are still doing this because factory workers in Mexico are still making poverty wages.

Economists Scott Andes and Mark Muro at Brookings also point out that other countries with high productivity growth in recent decades havent seen a similar steep decline in manufacturing jobs as the US has seen.

The evidence suggests there is essentially no relationship between the change in manufacturing employment and robot use, they write.

This helps explain why no one seems to agree on how many jobs will disappear in the future.

Study after study is published every year warning the public about the looming threat of robots. The McKinsey consulting firm estimates that automation could kill 73 million US jobs in the next 10 years. The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) estimates 13.6 million lost US jobs. Nearly a dozen separate studies say it could be anywhere from 3 million to 80 million. Thats a huge difference.

Yet the headlines that follow are always a variation of Robots are coming for your job.

But these studies are flawed, mostly because they depend on surveys of managers and business owners. They are usually asked to guess how many of the jobs at their business will likely be replaced by machines in the near future. Their answers are often just that: a guess.

Often, the studies try to predict market trends that are impossible to predict.

I have dedicated my career to worrying about the labor market. ... I am not worried about this, Heidi Shierholz, senior economist at the Economic Policy Institute told Voxs Joss Fong.

So will a quarter of all US jobs really disappear, as one of the debate moderators suggested?

No one has a damn clue.

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Democratic debate: The fight about automation and job losses, explained - Vox.com

Is automation actually killing the middle class? – MSNBC

Democrats focused heavily on economic issues at yesterdays debate and despite their differences, all 12 candidates agreed the economy is not working for the middle class. Stephanie Ruhle is joined by Goliath author Matt Stoller and Politics Editor of TheRoot.com Jason Johnson to break down the economic hightlights.Oct. 16, 2019

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Is automation actually killing the middle class? - MSNBC

Benefits of Using Urethane in Process Automation – BOSS Magazine

Reading Time: 3 minutes

Modern automated assembly and production technologies have forever changed the way we manufacture. Modern robotics have allowed us to seamlessly connect phases of production, and allowed for substantial decreases in the time required to produce an item. Rollers, shock absorbing bumpers, and gripping elements are present in almost every modern manufacturing center. Choosing the right material for these elements can improve these automated systems, and allow them to work at a high pace, and in a reliable fashion. Custom Cast urethane products have filled a diverse range of industry needs, and improved the capabilities of automated systems.

Inexpensive tooling

Stated by different urethane manufacturers, polyurethane molds can be made out of a variety of soft or hard materials. Rigid steel and aluminum tooling is common, but there is also an array of non-metallic mold options. Mold materials like silicone allow for inexpensive tooling to be developed, and allows projects with low quantities to be economically feasible. The rigid tooling required for some injection molding processes can be quite costly, and prohibit development of a project. Turret Punch Company has worked to bring a diverse selection of molding options to customers, and find cost effective solutions for mold making.

Long lasting polyurethane has an excellent wear life

The strong molecular bond present in cast urethane polymers means your parts will be long lasting in the field. Performance additives can be used to target specific forces that an item will be subject too while in use. Whether the requirement is extra resistant to lateral abrasion, or to withstand repeated cycles of compression and expansion, Turret Punch Company can custom blend a polymer that will best suit the needs to todays automated systems.

Low lifecycle costs

Switching your automated systems to polyurethane can initially be intimidating, due to the fact that it can be pricier than some alternative materials. Although initial investment may be of higher cost, the excellent wear qualities of urethane allow for a much longer lasting part. This higher initial cost quickly benefits those who change to polyurethane components. By outlasting many other comparable materials by such a large degree, polyurethane parts quickly become cost saving pieces of your automated production systems. Long lasting parts also lower downtime required for maintenance, and also lower the risk of unexpected failures that can bring automated production to a halt.

Resistance to harsh environments

Polyurethanes have a diverse range of resistance to many chemicals and environments where many other materials fail. Having consistent material behavior over a large temperature range allows the material to operate as desired in hot and cold climates. Most chemicals cause little to no problem for urethane, allowing them to be used in some of the most demanding and caustic scenarios. In production systems involved with heavy abrasives or oils, Turret Punch Company can find the right urethane solution for a long lasting component.

An abundant range of physical properties

Todays automated production facilities serve all industries and professional sectors. With that broad of a customer base, the range of tasks completed by automated lines can be dizzying. Urethane has excelled in bottling industry application with its excellent shock absorption, and ability to securely grip articles moving down a line. Lumber industry leaders have long turned to urethane for its abrasion resistance, and ability to have low-friction properties without sacrificing material strength. In the Mining sector, massive automated rock sorting equipment has seen an increased use of polyurethane due to its excellent shock absorbing qualities. No matter the requirements, Turret Punch Company find the best solution to enhance automation.

Give your automated systems the benefits of urethane

If you are looking to have long term cost savings by utilizing the best materials, polyurethane is the clear choice. Having an automated system with unparalleled reliability can be accomplished by properly utilizing urethane to make your machines more robust, and give you the peace of mind that the best materials are being used in your production. Replace wearable parts less frequently by talking with a knowledgeable design team, and finding the best fit for your application. Polyurethane stands poised to be an ever increasing benefit to those who use it, and will surely be a part of the automated systems of tomorrow.

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Benefits of Using Urethane in Process Automation - BOSS Magazine

Workforce Automation Exacerbates The Racial Wealth Gap – Forbes

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For generations of workers displacement has been a normal albeit unequal process, now technology is adding another layer to the mix. Workplace automation presents the larger society with a conundrum, as A.I. is set to upend companies, leaving African Americans especially vulnerable. Nearly 4.5 million African Americans in the next 10 years could lose their jobs due to automaton. Is it possible this business impediment will lead to more income inequality and is there anything that can be done about it?

The Breakdown You Need to Know: In a new report from McKinsey focused on the impact of automation and artificial intelligence on the Black workforce, they found that this ethnic group will be hit much harder than their counterparts. These workers are more likely to be living in geographic areas and working in jobs that are disproportionately more likely to be eliminated by automation. They are highly concentrated in support roles, specifically, 60% of this risk is lies in production, food prep, sales, transportation and administrative support.

Currently, 45% of work activities could be automated, which is around $2 trillion in wages and a major cost savings for businesses. However, CultureBanx reported that could result in accelerated unemployment rate for minorities, leading to a greatly diminished customer base and reduced profits.

Tech giant Google is one company that recognizes in a world full of algorithms, whats most needed is the generalist, a quarterback, someone able to look inside the black box'. Even though their workforce was only 3.3% black in 2018, the interview process gauges a candidates response to broad challenges that are harder to automate, rather than quizzing them on any specific area of knowledge.

Automating the Middle Class: Even though automation may be a solution to labor expenses or eliminate mindless tasks, the obverse in the words of Stephen Hawking will decimate the middle-class jobs and displace the working class.

When it comes to the racial wealth gap and the employment gap experienced by Black and white workers. African Americans are unemployed at twice the rate of white workers. There are other studies which indicate the median white family holds more than ten times the wealth of the median African American family in the U.S. McKinsey projected that closing the racial wealth gap could net the U.S. economy between $1.1 trillion and $1.5 trillion by 2028.

The report suggests African Americans will be geographically removed from future job growth centers, and if these trends are not addressed they could have a negative effect on the income generation, wealth, and stability of African American families.

By 2030 McKinsey predicts the employment outlook for African American men, workers 1835 and those without a college degree may worsen dramatically. Education and lifelong learning becomes more important to how one can navigate the inevitable changes being wrought by A.I., and critical thinking becomes our defense against the rise of the machine.

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Workforce Automation Exacerbates The Racial Wealth Gap - Forbes

Meghan McCain praises Yang for starting conversation on automation: ‘It’s incredibly impressive’ | TheHill – The Hill

The View co-host Meghan McCainMeghan Marguerite McCainMeghan McCain praises Yang for starting conversation on automation: 'It's incredibly impressive' Meghan McCain: It's 'breaking my heart' Warren is leading Biden in the polls Meghan McCain rips Trump, Rand Paul: 'Blood' on their hands while Kurds are 'slaughtered' MORE praised entrepreneur Andrew YangAndrew YangWarren defends, Buttigieg attacks in debate that shrank the field Warren leads in speaking time during debate Democrats debate in Ohio: Who came out on top? MORE for introducing the topic of mass automation during Tuesday's Democratic presidential debate in Westerville, Ohio.

This conversation about automation is all because of @AndrewYang - for a guy with absolutely no political background it's incredibly impressive, McCain tweeted.

This conversation about automation is all because of @AndrewYang - for a guy with absolutely no political background it's incredibly impressive. #DemDebates

Yang and Sen. Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth Ann WarrenWarren defends, Buttigieg attacks in debate that shrank the field Five takeaways from the Democratic debate in Ohio New study: Full-scale 'Medicare for All' costs trillion over 10 years MORE (D-Mass.) sparred on the topic of automation and its effect on the U.S. job market in the debate.

Warren said that blaming automation for job losses is a good story, but the data show that we have a lot of problems with losing jobs, but the principle reason has been bad trade policy.

Yang responded by saying that automation is having a negative effect on jobs.

Sen. Warren, Ive been talking to Americans around the country about automation, and theyre smart, Yang responded.

They see whats happening around them, their main street stores are closing, they see a self-serve kiosk in every McDonalds, every grocery store, every CVS, he said.

Yang went on to note that 3.5 million truck drivers stood to lose their jobs due to automation in the form of self-driving vehicles.

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Meghan McCain praises Yang for starting conversation on automation: 'It's incredibly impressive' | TheHill - The Hill

Why automation could hit black workers harder than other groups – CBS News

African Americans stand to lose thousands jobs to automation in some of the nation's largest cities over the next decade, according to new research from McKinsey & Co.

The management consultancyfound that blacks in the fast-food, retail and customer-service industries especially those in "support roles" like cashiers, office clerks, stockroom laborers and call-center representatives are most vulnerable to their jobs disappearing as companies invest more in labor-replacing technologies. In all, African-Americans are projected to lose a total of 132,000 jobs between now and 2030 due to automation, researchers said.

Of course, other groups are also under threat. Latinos could see roughly a quarter of their jobs automated out of existence, according to McKinsey, while Asians, whites and others will also be affected.

While automation often conjures up visions of factory floors full of robots, as is now common among automakers and other manufacturers, tech is displacing workers in less obvious ways. Automated services have already taken over such tasks as ordering a meal at McDonald's, paying a credit card balance by phone or checking in at the airport.

That is only the beginning. In 2016 alone, tech companies around the world spent upwards of $30 billion on artificial intelligence focused on automating work, McKinsey previously estimated.

"We think it's good for productivity that companies are looking into this, but the other side is to understand how it impacts workers," said Shelley Stewart III, a McKinsey partner who co-authored the most recent study. "Both the private and public sector have that obligation."

To estimate the future impact of automation on different groups of employees, McKinsey combined data from the U.S. Census, Labor Department and the Internal Revenue Service. Around the country, blacks in Baltimore, Chicago, Detroit and Washington, D.C., are likely to see the biggest job losses due to automation, according to the firm. That's because these cities have the highest concentration of African-American workers and the lowest expected rates of job growth for blacks.

Verlisa Leonard, a customer service representative who works just outside of Detroit, expressed concern that her job could vanish in the near future, especially since her company already uses an automated system to screen incoming calls.

"Right now, I feel like they need us, but they will find a way to get rid of us if there's something that costs less," said Leonard, 26. "And I'm not happy with that because I believe we, as a society, need customer service reps."

She hopes to enroll in college soon and study to become a registered nurse. Landing a nursing job in a hospital or clinic is a more stable job, Leonard said, "because they can't get rid of doctors."

Blacks losing jobs to automation could exacerbate the nation's racial income gap, researchers said. In 2018, the median household income for whites was $70,642, compared to $51,450 for Latinos and $41,361 for blacks, Census data show. Closing that gap could boost the U.S. economy by $1.5 trillion by 2028, researchers said.

Automation may have the most deleterious impact on black men 35 and younger with only a high school diploma, McKinsey said. Black women are better positioned to stave off job loss because they have a strong presence in the education and health care sectors, according to the firm.

"Occupations such as nursing assistants and home health aides have a lower automation potential due to the need for dynamic, physical motions and deep interpersonal connections," researchers wrote.

Black workers in jobs slated for automation should talk to their employer and see if there are opportunities to move into a different role, Stewart said.

"This is not about painting a dismal picture of 'our fate is our fate'," Stewart said. "We want to frame up in a real, fact-based way what the situation is, and we really want people to focus on what the solutions are."

Black workers could curb the impact of automation by getting a college education, transitioning into a role that's harder to automate or moving to communities where economists have predicted job growth, the report said. Researchers said Atlanta, Charlotte, Dallas, Houston and Orlando are likely to see stronger job growth despite the trend toward automation.

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Why automation could hit black workers harder than other groups - CBS News

Wages are stagnating around the world is automation to blame? – World Economic Forum

Fast-paced technological developments like automation are becoming an everyday reality, transforming the workplace.

And a new report from recruitment firm Hays highlights how automation is not just putting jobs at risk, but also keeping a lid on salaries.

The stagnation in global wage growth is partly attributable to an uptick in technology adoption, Hays says, citing an academic report that found one extra robot per 1,000 workers could lower wages by as much as 5%.

And that pressure is likely to continue, the report argues, as more robots are installed around the world in the coming years.

Image: Hays, OECD

Many of these themes are explored in the World Economic Forum's Future of Jobs Report 2018, including the notion that governments should help people prepare for the workplace of tomorrow by ensuring they have the right qualifications.

The Forum has called for more reskilling and upskilling, saying human skills" like creativity and critical thinking will become just as important as technological ones.

If we dont seek to address these issues in the near future, we risk further discouraging workers by failing to increase wages, provide full employment and account for technological progress in the workplace, says Hays Chief Executive Alistair Cox.

The skills and wage crises are ultimately linked, and to avoid either spiralling out of control employers must collectively reevaluate both wage growth and skills.

Underscoring a need to better match workers competencies with jobs, the Hays Talent Mismatch indicator which measures the gap between skills firms are looking for and those available climbed to the highest level since the company started compiling it in 2012. Year-on-year, the gauge rose to 6.7 in 2019, up from 6.6 a year prior.

Hays' research also echoed the Forums in illustrating how female and male workers are likely to be affected differently by these technological disruptions. Professions that are often dominated by women for example those in retail could be particularly hard-hit, the Hays report says, with large numbers of jobs being eradicated and not replaced.

Governments and businesses should ramp up programmes to help women enter traditionally male-dominated sectors, like technology, the report notes.

License and Republishing

World Economic Forum articles may be republished in accordance with our Terms of Use.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author alone and not the World Economic Forum.

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Wages are stagnating around the world is automation to blame? - World Economic Forum

Automation And Policy Drive Optimal Hybrid Cloud Spending – The Next Platform

Hybrid cloud is gaining traction as organizations seek to realize the flexibility and scale of a joint public and on-premises model of IT provisioning while also changing the way their compute and storage infrastructure is funded, transferring costs from a capital expense (capex) to an operating expense (opex). The proportion of organizations with a hybrid cloud strategy grew to 58 percent in 2019, up from 51 percent in the prior year, according to RightScales State of the Cloud 2019 report.

Moving your infrastructure to the cloud, however, wont necessarily guarantee the promised benefits, especially for compute-intensive datacenters. Indeed, there is a danger that the cloud part of a hybrid infrastructure could actually let you down that performance gains and cost-savings are not realized. That can happen if you dont optimize your distributed workloads an area where policy-based automation can really help.

Hybrid cloud solves one of the biggest problems in high performance computing: a lack of capacity. If you are relying purely on your own computing infrastructure then you face a trade-off between workload capacity and computing resources. Take batch processing jobs, for example; these often entail a complex mixture of workloads with different sizes, required completion times, and other characteristics.

Job schedulers seek to fit as many workloads as possible into the computing infrastructure, but job volumes and sizes arent always regular. Too many of them at once create demand spikes that may exceed resources. What happens when there are more workloads with specific machine requirements than there are machines, and those jobs have hard deadlines or high priority? Buying more computers to satisfy rare but critical spikes in demand isnt the answer. That equipment could languish with lower utilization during workload volume valleys.

This is where the concept of hybrid cloud comes in because it lets you extend your existing, on-premise resources. The drivers for this are, typically, the need to ensure additional capacity for peak workloads, to provision more specialized resources than those usually required, or to spin up new resources for special projects. Unlike cloud-only, hybrid cloud uses a common orchestration system and lets administrators move data and applications between the local and remote infrastructures. By moving workloads dynamically to the cloud when local resources are insufficient, companies can build elasticity into their computing environments while avoiding extra capital outlay.

This provides several advantages: users can complete jobs more quickly, and also gain access to resources they might not have locally, such as GPUs, fast block and object storage, and parallel file systems.

While this is all great stuff, the practice of actually implementing bursting can be complex. For example: how can you ensure that youre sending the right jobs to a cloud environment? With so many computing jobs of different sizes and types, making the best use of your local infrastructure and remote cloud resource is like playing a multi-dimensional game of Tetris.

Get it wrong, and youll end up paying too much for your hybrid cloud than you had planned. Moor Insights & Strategy highlights several examples of how costs can run out of control in hybrid cloud environments. Examples include budgeting for ideal capacity without allowing for uncertainty and also forecasting a higher use of the infrastructure than you deliver thereby paying for unused capacity. You might miss smaller costs beyond compute and storage, such as data transfers, load balancing, and application services. Another common cause of cost overruns is failing to de-provision cloud resources once youve finished with them. Hybrid cloud customers can also fall into the trap of using higher-cost platform services such as proprietary public cloud data storage, instead of infrastructure services running open source software on compute and storage services. It can all add up to an unnecessary dent in your budget.

These issues should be top of mind if cost management is as it should be a compelling reason for using the cloud in a hybrid setting. RightScales 2019 State of the Cloud report found that 64 percent of cloud customers in 2019 on average prioritized optimizing their cloud resources for cost savings. This makes it the top initiative for the third year in a row, increasing from 58 percent last year. The number is highest among intermediate cloud users (70 percent) and advanced (76 percent), confirming that the more sophisticated your use of cloud resources, the more complexity you face.

Automation promises to help manage cloud usage and do away with some of these potential problems. An orchestration system that manages workloads can automatically play that game of workload Tetris for you, and if done correctly ensure optimal results. Such a system involves more than a job scheduler, however. These have been around for decades and tend to focus on resource efficiency and throughput of a single, static compute cluster. That means they can be inflexible and reactive, managing batch scheduling according to workload or project priorities or other parameters. Schedulers fail to take into account that cloud resources can be allocated and sized dynamically.

More modern cloud management systems serve multiple computing platforms and have been extended to seamlessly integrate on-prem with cloud. The most mature of these can tie job allocation to application performance and service levels. These systems can ensure that a user or department only gets the level of service that they agreed to, sending resource hogs further down in the queue.

Importantly, these tools can help you manage your costs. They do this by tagging resources when theyre provisioned so that admins know what machine instances are in play and what they are being used for. They can alert operators to such things as instances in the hybrid cloud that have gone unused beyond a certain threshold.

Such tools can also link to a dashboard that will let you peek into your level of cloud usage and see just how much your virtualized resources are costing. Ideally, admins should be able to drill down into usage and expenditure data on a per-project basis.

Rather than simply reporting back on whats happened, this category of tools can be used to enforce policies to control what youre spending on a per-project or even a per-user basis providing alerts when usage is nearing a pre-set budget threshold.

Of course, the best rules dont come out of a box, and somebody has to write them in the form of policies that the cloud manager can use to determine a course of action. Such policies should take several factors into account. For example, applications that are allowed to burst to the public cloud versus those that are not, software licenses allowed to run on only local servers, and data that cannot move beyond the datacenter for compliance or security reasons.

When writing the rules, you also need to be aware of the technical factors that can stymie a jobs journey to the cloud in order to overcome them. These factors include the fact that a workload may rely on output from some prerequisite jobs that are running locally, meaning it must wait to execute or short-running workloads may take too long to provision the cloud-based resources that it needs. Spinning up a machine instance to handle a job may take two minutes, while uploading the data it needs may take five minutes. If the job ahead of it in the local system will finish in 30 seconds, then it makes sense to wait rather than sending the workload to the cloud.

Another factor that a policy could draw on is the direction and pacing of the workload. A policy could decide how many remote cloud server instances to spin up or spin down, based on whether the number of scheduled jobs is growing or shrinking, and how quickly.

Ultimately, this kind of thinking can help you to deliver a reaper policy that deletes server resources at the end of a cloud-based job. The reaper policy helps keep the use of unnecessary cloud resources to a minimum, but if the delta between the workloads in the queue and the available local resource continues to grow, it may wish to keep some machine instances available for new jobs, so it doesnt have to waste time starting new ones.

There is yet another dimension to consider: rightsizing. The cloud manager must spin up the appropriate machine instance in the hybrid cloud to enable the scheduler to dispatch the job. Sizing accuracy is important in the cloud where you pay for every processor core and gigabyte of RAM used.

Admins should therefore use their own custom (and internally approved) instances rather than relying purely on the cloud service providers own default configurations. You should take care to match the core count and memory in those virtual servers to the size of the job so that you arent paying extra for computing and memory resources that arent needed.

Although cloud computing jobs often specify machine instance requirements themselves, savvy admins wont take that at face value. Instead, they will use runtime monitoring and historical analytics to determine whether regular jobs use the resources they ask for. Admins finding a significant difference may specify server instances based on historical requirements, rather than stated ones.

The ideal situation here is a NoOps model, in which policies automate operations to the point where there is little administrative intervention in an increasingly optimized system. The factors contributing to policy execution are many, varied, and multi-layered while the policies themselves can be as complex as an admin wants to make them. The more complex the policies, the more important it is to test and simulate them to ensure that they operate according to expectations.

Policy-driven cloud automation is the key to the successful use of hybrid cloud because it provides a way to tune infrastructure and avoid burning cash on unnecessary cloud resources, such as machine instances and cloud storage. Its the next step towards a mature use of cloud away from simple, discrete jobs to an environment thats an integral part of your data processing toolbox.

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Automation And Policy Drive Optimal Hybrid Cloud Spending - The Next Platform

A 3-step guide to maximizing ecommerce revenue with ad automation – DigitalCommerce360

Vlad Zhovtenko, CEO, RedTrack

US digital advertising spending will grow 19% and overtake traditional advertising spending by the end of 2019. With it, one of the main ad sellers remains Amazon. It has kept on being an industry leader through creation and development its line of advertising solutions. With it, advertisers have got a 13% QoQ growth in sales and impressions . At the same time, applying Amazon PPC turned into 30% click growth for health care sector, 25% for technology and 24% for retail compared to last year.

These subtotals give every reason to believe that ecommerce brands will significantly increase their digital spending next year. However, it doesnt necessarily mean positive changes, especially for SMBs.

The main advantages of digital advertising automation are efficiency, scale, and low costs.

The first reason is regulatory changes in online advertising. This year Apple hit the market by tightening its anti-tracking policies and integrating cookie-blocking technology into Safari.

Another reason is a heavily increased routine workload caused by traffic volume growth. Our internal research shows that with traffic growth and no additional investments in human resources, SMBs marketing teams effectiveness often decrease. The team has to cope with a much larger volume of repetitive and routine tasks. This leads to teams focus diffusion and insufficient concentration on strategic and creative ideas.

Big companies can easily handle the changes, while SMBs often experience significant difficulties due to lack of financial resources and inability to hire new people.

Its obvious that to live up to their own expectations, ecommerce businesses of all sizes should use creative approaches to overcome looming challenges. One of the most efficient way to do it today is to adopt ad automation practices. But before you get it, there are 3 important steps to take.

It has been argued that ad automation is more suitable for corporations, while smaller players better concentrate on sales growth first. But the fact is that high volumes of traffic and sales can turn into a real nightmare for ecommerce companies by overloading personnel with routine tasks and keeping them from addressing important creative needs. Superficial advertising analytics and fragmented business processes destroy the system and can not only ruin the workflow of all the team but affect companys financial condition.

On the other hand, automation shouldnt be considered as a must-have tool for any ecommerce company. A business should have a clear understanding of ad-automation technology so they can set realistic goals

The main advantages of digital advertising automation are efficiency, scale, and low costs. The expected measurable results mainly relate to higher CTR and lower CPC for ad campaigns. On top of that, algorithms take a significant number of repetitive tasks on themselves, giving more time to invest in strategy and creative task. At competent approach it saves a great amount of time, money and recruiting resources.

Companies usually start thinking about automation in times of intense growth or when preparing for growth. The more channels they handle, the more difficult it becomes to maintain focus and keep pace. In either event, automation will have a significant impact on the whole marketing chain, e.g. lead generation, lead scoring, customer segmentation, customer lifecycles, analytics processes, and etc.

The main point here is that automation also requires preparation. Theres no way algorithms can automate the whole advertising process while managers have no ground to assign creative tasks to machines. Positive advertising automation requires a balance between organic human interaction and efficient machines interventions. So, first comes prioritization.

With extensions and software currently available on the market, companies can automate the following tasks in their workflow:

Determine which actions take up too much of your time and match it with the relevant offers available on the market.

Ad automation helps companies to run successful digital advertising campaigns with minimal human assistance. While some take ad automation solutions for trendy machine-learning technology, the fact is true ad automation features have nothing in common with artificial Intelligence.

They are basically sets of rules that can be created with just several lines of complex code. A user sets KPI that the ad campaign should reach and specifies which automatic actions should be taken when this happens or what should be done if KPIs are not met. Actions can include traffic redistribution, a campaign pause or a full campaign stop.

Purchasing reliable software will be a more economical solution than developing your own. Its always difficult to predict if tools will deliver the expected value at a long distance. Some of them may be adjusted to particular business models, volumes, and operations. Some just pass high-priced AI-basedfeatures off as automation.

So, before choosing, make sure you know exactly what you want to automate and what kind of result you aim to get.

RedTrack provides technology for tracking, managing and analyzing online advertising.

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A 3-step guide to maximizing ecommerce revenue with ad automation - DigitalCommerce360

There’s an Automation Crisis Underway Right Now, It’s Just Mostly Invisible – Gizmodo

What actually happens to workers when a company deploys automation? The common assumption seems to be that the employee simply disappears wholesale, replaced one-for-one with an AI interface or an array of mechanized arms.

Yet given the extensive punditeering, handwringing, and stump-speeching around the robots are coming for our jobs phenomenonwhich I will never miss an opportunity to point out is falsely representedresearch into what happens to the individual worker remains relatively thin. Studies have attempted to monitor the impact of automation on wages on aggregate or to correlate employment to levels of robotization.

But few in-depth investigations have been made into what happens to each worker after their companies roll out automation initiatives. Earlier this year, though, a paper authored by economists James Bessen, Maarten Goos, Anna Salomons, and Wiljan Van den Berge set out to do exactly that.

Armed with a uniquely robust datasetthe researchers had access to employee and administrative data, as well as information about expenditures on automation for 36,490 Dutch companies, or around 5 million workersthe economists examined how automation events impacted employees in the Netherlands between 2000 and 2016. They measured daily and annual wages, employment rates, the collection of unemployment insurance and welfare receipts.

What emerges is a portrait of workplace automation that is ominous in a less dramatic manner than were typically made to understand. For one thing, there is no robot apocalypse, even after a major corporate automation event. Unlike mass layoffs, automation does not appear to immediately and directly send workers packing en masse.

Instead, automation increases the likelihood that workers will be driven away from their previous jobs at the companieswhether theyre fired, or moved to less rewarding tasks, or quitand causes a long-term loss of wages for the employee.

The report finds that firm-level automation increases the probability of workers separating from their employers and decreases days worked, leading to a 5-year cumulative wage income loss of 11 percent of one years earnings. Thats a pretty significant loss.

Worse still, the study found that even in the Netherlands, which has a comparatively generous social safety net to, say, the United States, workers were only able to offset a fraction of those losses with benefits provided by the state. Older workers, meanwhile, were more likely to retire earlydeprived of years of income they may have been counting on.

Interestingly, the effects of automation were felt similarly through all manner of companysmall, large, industrial, services-oriented, and so on. The study covered all non-finance sector firms, and found that worker separation and income loss were quite pervasive across worker types, firm sizes and sectors.

Automation, in other words, forces a more pervasive, slower-acting and much less visible phenomenon than the robots-are-eating-our-jobs talk is preparing us for.

People are focused on the damage of automation being mass unemployment, study author James Bessen, an economist at Boston University, tells me in an interview. And thats probably wrong. The real damage is, there are people who are being hurt by this right now.

According to Bessen, compared to firms that have not automated, the rate of workers leaving their jobs is simply higher, though from the outside, it can resemble more straightforward turnover. But its more than attrition, he says. A much greater percentage8 percent moreare leaving. And some never come back to work. Theres a certain percentage that drop out of the labor force. That five years later still havent gotten a job.

The result, Bessen says, is an added strain on the social safety net that it is currently woefully unprepared to handle. As more and more firms join the automation goldrusha 2018 McKinsey survey of 1,300 companies worldwide found that three-quarters of them had either begun to automate business processes or planned to do so next yearthe number of workers forced out of firms seems likely to tick up, or at least hold steady. What is unlikely to happen, per this research, is an automation-driven mass exodus of jobs.

This is a double-edged sword: While its obviously good that thousands of workers are unlikely to be fired in one fell swoop when a process is automated at a corporation, it also means the pain of automation is distributed in smaller, more personalized doses, and thus less likely to prompt any sort of urgent public response. If an entire Amazon warehouse were suddenly automated, it might spur policymakers to try to address the issue; if automation has been slowly hurting us for years, its harder to rally support for stemming the pain.

There is a serious social challenge, Bessen says. Even in a place like the Netherlands thats supposed to have a great social safety netits not working.

Bessen says we need to retune those social safety nets, think about how to improve job training and retraining programs so they fit with local needs and generally modernize our support systems for automation-vulnerable workers. We have this crazy system where healthcare is keyed to your job, he says, for instance, that is increasing the social friction and the pain thats keyed to your job. You have to have some support for people who are laid off.

That we dont, of course, is something of a travesty. All that automation is enhancing productivity and efficiency, it just so happens to be redirecting the bulk of the gains past the workers and up to executive management. Were making more goods with less labor, per unit of capital, he adds. Were making the pie bigger. Its the issue of whos getting the pieces of the pie.

(Bessen says he thinks the results of the study would roughly translate to the U.S., though the rates of income loss and unemployment may be a little higher.)

So automation continues to unfold, piecemeal, at companies of every size and stripe. After each micro-automation event within a company, employees are forced out. Some workers are terminated, some quit. Now imagine this happening tens of thousandseven millionsof times over the course of a decade, at varying intervals and varying times of economic stability. That, according to Bessen and companys research, is the social impact of automation on the workforce.

Its not an apocalyptic sort of scenario, the likes of which Andrew Yang has become notorious for proselytizing about, but a creeping malaise, still massive, that will add millions of workers to the unemployment rolls.

What Yang does get right, Bessen says, is the potential political import of companies automating jobs away. Yang likes to talk about how automation led to Donald Trumps presidencyand I guess I do tooby hollowing out jobs and leaving workers increasingly insecure and angry.

You can talk about how disruptive it is, Bessen says. The large section of working people who have been poorly affected over the last 10 to 20 years and how they have a potential to become a disruptive political force. Maybe thats the crisis.

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There's an Automation Crisis Underway Right Now, It's Just Mostly Invisible - Gizmodo

StackTeck announces new initiative for IML automation with dedicated facility – Plastics Today

StackTeck Systems Ltd. (Brampton, ON), which has made a name for itself in the in-mold labeling (IML) space, will showcase its latest developments in four booths at the K show starting this week in Dsseldorf, Germany.

StackTeck will have a 2-x-8 thin recess injection molding (TRIM) cell running at the Arburg stand (A 13 in hall 13), where a 600-ton high-speed machine equipped with a side-entry robot will mold a TRIM 16-oz. container bottom with a sidewall thickness of 0.37 mm.

Running in a hybrid machine from BMB S.p.A. (Brescia, Italy) with a Machines Pages robot at stand A 33 in hall 13 will be an IML system featuring both MuCell and TRIM technologies molding a 1-x-4 TRIM 500-gram, three-sided rectangular container. The mold has been optimized with KoolTrack conformal cooling in gate pad/insert and core cap. This is StackTecks newest show mold with TRIM panel thickness of 0.25 mm, which is 20% lighter than a conventional thin-wall container.

Haitian International (booth A 57, hall 15) will feature StackTecks 1-x-4 IML 115-mm round lid mold running with clarified PP and a two-sided IML label running in Haitians Zafir 240-ton machine with IML automation.

Featured in StackTecks booth (C 29 in Hall 1) will be static displays of the latest technologies with plastic parts and steel components. These include PET preform molds highlighting cooling and post-mold cooling technologies; servo driven technology for different applications; co-injection, multi-material, specialty coatings, KoolTrack, TRIM, IML and closure technologies.

StackTeck is also announcing its new initiative for automation with a team to facilitate customer projects for IML and other packaging applications in a new facility near Toronto International Airport. The facility will be dedicated to robotics engineering, assembly, test and injection molding systems integration.

StackTeck has an existing IML pilot cell that uses a dedicated IML robot with a 300-ton injection molding machine for prototyping and sampling new IML projects.

The new initiative for IML robots is based on a proven design that is assembled in Canada as of mid-2019, which will be offered with short lead times and competitive pricing. Initial efforts for this new business will be focused on IML applications for the Americas; however, long term plans are to serve a broad range of automation systems on a global scale.

John Pocock, who is leading the new team as General Manager, commented: Ive been supplying IML robots for StackTeck molds over the past couple of years. In a short time period, for one customer, were now up to seven IML systems, including stack mold systems for both containers and lids.

According to Jordan Robertson, StackTecks Vice President of Business Development and Market, We see a niche in North America, where customers are looking not just for system integration, but to have the moldmaking and automation design teams meeting face-to-face and working closely together to tackle specialty technical challenges.

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StackTeck announces new initiative for IML automation with dedicated facility - Plastics Today

Automation is now No. 1 for SecOps: How to put it to work on your team – TechBeacon

Security automation has become a top concern for many organizations as they struggle with a growing number of cyber threats fueled by new attack vectors in the cloud, and with proliferating endpoints created by the Internet of Things.

That trend was revealed in a recent survey of 300 CISOs, CIOs, CTOs, architects, engineers, and analysts across a variety of industries by the threat detection and hunting company Fidelis Cybersecurity.

More than half the professionals surveyed (57%) said that a lack of automation is their top concern for their organizations.

Here's how to improve your overall security operations with automation.

[ Explore the challenges and opportunities facing SOCs in TechBeacon's new guide. Plus: Getthe 2019 State of Security Operations report. ]

Automation is rising on the priority list because organizations arerealizing it's a way to reduce risks, gain greater visibility into their networks, and get the most from their security stacks.

One of the biggest risks automation can address is human error. When an engineer is asked to repeat the same task every day, looking for needles in the same haystacks, eventually they will make a mistake,said Laurence Pitt,strategic security director at security and performance company Juniper Networks. "Computers will not do this. Once set to a task, they will get it right every single time without failure."

Automated and orchestrated processes can also reduce risks by allowing threats to be detected and addressed faster, said Joseph Blankenship,vice president and research director for security and risk atForrester Research.

"Automated policy orchestration also helps reduce risk by ensuringthat policies exist and are effective, reducing the risk that systems and the data in those systems can be breached."Joseph Blankenship

There's an opportunity to incorporate automation to reduce risk at all stages of security, saidRani Osnat,vice president for strategy atAqua Security, acloud application security provider.

This can startwith automated scanning for vulnerabilities, flaws, malware, and configuration mistakes, and includeautomated profiling of allocation behavior for whitelisting and anomaly detection. Other security areas ripe for automation aredetection of and response tobreaches and attacks.

As good as automation is atreducing human error, it can't eliminate humans entirely.

"Computers can spot patterns, alerts, and bad actions on the network or on connected devices. Humans can spot the unexpected."Laurence Pitt

That's why security automation is so important,he added. "It gives time back to the engineers to do what they are good at."

Integration of security solutions is another area where automation falls short and can actually create risk, said Joseph Carson, the chief security scientist at security tools vendor Thycotic. "For many organizations, this tends to be time-consuming and complicated and can introduce risks when done incorrectly."

[ Effective SecOps requires staying one step ahead.Get up to speed with thisWebinar coveringUEBA and MITREATT&CK]

Automation can help security engineers by noticing patterns inside the millions of alerts sent to them daily. Automation can "spot the ones that actually need to be of concern and either act on them, or flag them for an engineer," Juniper'sPitt explained.

Automation using machine learning can give system defenders greater insight into network operations, too,saidShreyans Mehta,co-founder and CTO ofCequence Security, amaker of automated digital security systems.

"By observing network and application traffic, machine learning can help model how good users behave on a web application. The same models can then be used to identify bad actors with malicious behaviors and intent."Shreyans Mehta

Automation can also help organizations get more from their security stacks. Organizations are "overwhelmed"by the volume and velocity of alerts generated by their security systems,saidRaphael Reich, vice president of product marketing at CyCognito, maker of an attack surface analysis platform.

"By leveraging automated, intelligent prioritization of risks. Organizations can ensure their security resources are focused on addressing the risks that, when eliminated, provide the greatest ROI."Raphael Reich

A majority of organizations surveyed in the Fidelis report admitted they are not using their stack to its full potential. Just 6.54%of all organizations surveyed believe they are using their security stack to its full capability.

The good news, the report said, is that most organizations realize that this is a problem, with 78% of respondents replying that they already have, or are planning to, consolidate their security stack.

One approach to maximizing stack utilization is to create a standardized data ontology that represents the structure and flow of information between the components of the security ecosystem.

"This creates a common language that facilitates communicationnot just between human stakeholders but also between the systems that comprise the security stack," said Syed Abdur,senior director of products at therisk analytics firm Brinqa.

"Of course, when you automate, it means that the resources you have can do so much more, and you can get more value out of your solutions."Joseph Carson

While automation can address some of the concerns organizations have about risk, visibility, and utilization, it needs data to work effectively, said Blankenship. "Automation is only as good as the analytics technologies that exist. Automation can't do anything without good data."

One reason for the lack of automationthus far is that the legacy systems in many organizations depend on signatures to function. These systems, unlike machine-learning-based systems, require constant writing and updating of manual rules and require manual feedback, which does not support automation,said Cequence's Mehta.

That's especially true in security operations centers (SOCs). Most organizations have very manual processes in their SOCs due to the wide range of technologies analysts work with, the need for human intelligence to identify threats, and the lack of automated tools until about four years ago,said Forrester's Blankenship. "Automation is still relatively new to security operations professionals."

Brinqa'sAbdurexplained that a lack of standardization within security programs themselves can also be a barrier to automation.

"There can be significant differences in how the same cybersecurity program may be designed and implemented across different organizations. As a result, a 'one size fits all' approach to cybersecurity process automation does not work."Syed Abdur

In addition, he said, while it's possible to automate large parts of the vulnerability management process, to do that an organization needs an authoritative, accurate, and complete asset inventory.

A surprisingly large percentage of organizations lag behind in implementing foundational controls like asset management effectively, which makes it difficult to incorporate automation further downstream,Abdur said.

While security professionals say they'reconcerned about thelack of automation, some of that sentimentmay be a bit hypocritical. "At least in part, lack of automation is due to resistance to relinquishing control to automated systems," saidAqua Security'sOsnat.

That's especially true when it comes to preventive controls or response to threats thatcan block processes or applications. In those situations, practitioners can be overly concerned about automation creating false positives that can be a time suck on the development process.

"Unfortunately, sometimes the speed of attacks, which themselves are often automated, requires an automated response if they are to be thwarted or contained in time," Osnat said.

Juniper Networks' Pittagreed that the accuracy of existing automated systems can make security pros nervous. "This leads to solutions being deployed in the 'least automated' mode," he said.

A classic example of that is information intrusion, Pitt said.

"Everyone has the technology, but many run it in detect-only mode rather than risk falsepositives," he said. "So what we have is a lack of fully deployed automation."Laurence Pitt

That's typically the situation in SOCs. The tools are available from vendors,Blankenship said, but many SOCs dont have them implemented or fully implemented.

"Many SOCs lack automated tools to do the grunt workof security, like running searches and collecting data. They also lack the ability to take automated action on identified threats."Joseph Blankenship

Organizations also lack automated tools to do things such as patching and policy management,Blankenship added. But as environments grow increasingly complex, the ability to automatically push out and enforce policies in multiple environmentsincludingon-premises, cloud, multi-cloud, and hybrid"becomes critical."

[ Find out how to take control of credentials privilege in your organization in this Oct. 31 Webinar. You'll learn best practices, more.]

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Automation is now No. 1 for SecOps: How to put it to work on your team - TechBeacon

Commentary: The tides of unionization and container port automation – FreightWaves

Automationtends to make some people nervous. Ever since the invention of the steam engine,common carriage has since been expected to become ever faster, more reliable,and offer larger carrying capacity. Couple this with cheaper and faster accessto information. That, too, makes some people nervous from the original printingpresses (which displaced medieval scribes) to the one-click-away Uber/Lyftdrivers (who are now displacing traditional taxicab companies). In each ofthese cases, markets became more efficient (i.e., using fewer inputs togenerate higher-value outputs). As a result, jobs were lost and those remainingwere re-tasked to utilize the latest technologies. These structural changes arerarely smooth but, at the same time, they are hard to stop.

Automation is now being widely discussed at container ports. It is more accurate to say that a new form of automation is under brisk discussion because the process of automation is never-ending. The shipping container itself exemplified by the pioneering work of Malcom McLean changed the nature of dock work forever by making it less labor-intensive and more efficient. Locked and sealed intermodal containers move from origin to destination by way of various transfer points. Avoiding the unloading and re-loading of the cargo at those points save time, money and lower the risk of theft, damage and terrorist tampering. Today, the tide of automation is leading to driverless container carriers and remote-controlled gantry cranes.

The July2019 study by Toronto-based Prism Economics and Analysis noted job loss as partof the economic impact of partial to full automation of port activities inBritish Columbia. The report was sponsored by the International Longshore andWarehouse Union (ILWU). Naturally, the ILWU is concerned with activity thatmight lead to job loss among its membership. It has taken a strong standagainst increased automation at the Port of Los Angeles, though that effort wasunsuccessful and APM Terminals deployed its first set of automated straddlecarriers last August. However, the ILWU and APM Terminals did reach anagreement on worker retraining. This is the sort of push-back to be expected fromtrade unions in the coming years because the number of unionized jobs will surelydecrease. Unfortunately, labor is the highest variable cost in port operations.

While the Prismreport suggests that productivity may decline and the return on capital investedmay be lower than otherwise, it also notes that the number of fully/partiallyautomated ports in the world is likely to increase beyond the 60 today. If thisis so then the risk vs. return on capital does not seem to be a strongdeterrent to at least some investors and governments. Still, of concern is theupfront capital expenditures necessary to move to more automation. Of course, somein the 1950s made that same argument when they contemplated the upfrontexpenditures on gantry cranes. In due time it became widely understood thatsuch cranes were a necessary price to pay before ports could realize the full benefitof lift-on, lift-off (LO-LO) containerized shipping. A further benefit fromcontainerization was the spurring of intermodal transportation. Using gantry cranesto speed loading/unloading of containers incentivized investment in more trucksand trains to handle the extra demand for inland container transport. In likemanner, we can expect the largest ports to invest in the newest technologiesbecause of their economies of scale.

Remote-controlled gantry cranes mean the operator does not deal with the physical movements and equipment noise and vibrations that come with operating the crane in a sealed compartment. The remote operator, sitting in a more comfortable work space, could be moved from one crane to any other across the terminal by the push of a button to call it up on his monitor. The future could see an operator handling more than one crane simultaneously. The Port of Rotterdam, an early flashpoint in this drive, had a wildcat strike on this very issue in 2013 with further strikes occurring in 2015 and 2016. Thus, it will take some time to implement the latest automation because some degree of union buy-in, or at least their reluctant resolve, will be necessary. There will be fewer jobs; but they will be more comfortable and dependent on computerized technology. At the same time, trade unions at the ports will be under increasing pressure as new labor-saving technologies become available. Caught in the middle will be the state and local governments which oversee the major U.S. ports. If the aphorism all politics is local still holds true we can expect a lot of lobbying and counter lobbying on the future-of-work in the years ahead.

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Commentary: The tides of unionization and container port automation - FreightWaves

The Guardian view on automating poverty: OK computers? – The Guardian

Across the world, governments are investing in machines that they hope will run their social security systems and other services more cheaply and effectively than humans. The Guardians Automating Poverty series includes reports from the US, Australia and India as well as the UK. The roles played by technology in these countries are all different. But taken together, the articles reveal how automation, machine learning and artificial intelligence are extending their reach into peoples lives through the delivery of public services.

As with all automation processes, speed and efficiency provide the rationale. But our reporting on systems such as those used in the US to collect government debts, and in the UK to administer social security payments, gives cause for concern on several grounds. These include practical questions such as whether the new systems work, and particularly whether they are equipped to rectify errors and false results.

Given the suffering that even a single missed payment can cause to a vulnerable claimant, any glitches in such systems must be taken seriously. In the UK, there are numerous instances of universal credit (UC) payment problems linked to automation. One man ended up homeless after a computer stopped his payments on the basis of flawed data, a decision that staff appeared unable to override. In India, Motka Manjhi died after his biometric thumbprint key went unrecognised, leaving him unable to access the government food rations that he was entitled to. His family blame his death on starvation.

But even were such technical hitches to be ironed out, or sufficient staff retained by government agencies so that flawed machine decisions could be routinely overriden, serious questions remain. One is whether, and in what circumstances, it is right for a government to replace employees with computers in its dealings with dependent citizens. Given that some of those who rely on the state for support because of their age or disability, or some other reason, are often to some degree marginalised or excluded, arguably what they most need from the government is not just money, but also human resources in the form of staff who can help them.

This was the view taken by UC claimant Danny Brice, whose learning difficulties and dyslexia have made applying for benefits online a torment. Talking is the way forward, not a bloody computer, he told the Guardian. With 5 million adults who have either never used the internet or last used it more than three months ago, and millions more who are functionally illiterate, it is clear that even in a country with universal access to free secondary education there are significant barriers to any online service. This is why Labours recent promise to reform UC so that it is no longer digital by default was warmly welcomed by poverty campaigners. It is also one reason why the current governments continued push to digitise, including the Department for Work and Pensions secretive intelligent automation garage project on checking benefit claims, should be scrutinised far more intensively.

Technology is transformative, but its effects are not always beneficial. The predictive algorithms pioneered by US social media and advertising companies continue to be put to destructive as well as creative uses. Much stronger regulation is needed, for example with regard to data collected from children. Machine learning, like computers more broadly, may serve socially useful purposes, including in the design and delivery of public services. But such applications present moral and philosophical challenges as well as technical ones, among them questions of consent, privacy and the replication or even intensification of human biases.

So far, this series suggests, the uses made by governments of the latest automation technologies raise more questions than they answer. The public in each of these countries needs to know much more.

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The Guardian view on automating poverty: OK computers? - The Guardian

Rockwell Automation: A Slow But Steady Growth Story – Seeking Alpha

Rockwell Automation (ROK) is an industrial automation company. Its revenue is growing at a CAGR of 4.40% in the past ten years, and EBITDA is growing at a CAGR of 10.62% in the same time period. Rockwell is a medium-growth company. Its stock has created a 52-week high of $191.96 and a 52-week low of $141.46. Currently the stock is trading near $165, and around this price the stock is attractively valued. Long-term investors can accumulate the stock around the current price.

Rockwell is a provider of industrial automation and information solutions. It has two operating segments, which are Architecture & Software, and Control Products & Solutions. The company has some excellent products, which are its growth drivers for the future. The products are factory analytics, advanced process control products, and advanced motion control products.

Rockwells FactoryTalk Analytics platform has the potential to become one of its top growing products. This platform offers solutions that include assessment of machine health and identification of machine maintenance needs. The company produces insightful information from raw data at the factory level on plant floors across the globe. It has standardized its operation on its EtherNet/IP system. The EtherNet/IP system connects devices like motor starters and sensors with the computers at the enterprise level. After assessing machine health and its maintenance needs, the analytics platform sends this information to the enterprise from the plant floor.

Rockwells advanced process control products Pavilion8 and PlantPAx are MPC (model predictive control) products that will see high growth in the future. In today's competitive world many companies are shifting their operations from product-centric to customer-centric and demand-driven. The Pavilion8 software platform helps the companies achieve this. The platform has modules to analyze, control, monitor and visualize factory operations in such a way that it is possible to control manufacturing according to demand. PlantPAx MPC software platform is designed to run within standard Logix hardware. This platform helps the companies manage most challenging and complex control problems by responding more quickly to the demands of the customers and to the fast-changing product specifications.

The companys Servo drives, Servo motors and actuators are its advanced motion control solutions. Motion control is a sub-field of automation and an important part of robotics where machines move in a controlled manner. Since motion control is a part of robotics, Rockwells Servo family of products are actually robotics products. And since robotics is a high-growth sector, Servo will see growing revenue in the years to come. According to a report, The robotics market was valued at USD 31.78 billion in 2018 and is expected to register a CAGR of 25% over the forecast period of 2019-2024. In addition to Servo, Rockwells iTRAK intelligent track system is another intelligent motion control solution. The iTRAK system is a modular and scalable motion control system that substitutes rotary-driven chains, belts, and gears of the past. Instead, it is controlled by simple software profiles. The iTRAK system will also see increasing revenue in the coming years.

Industrial automation is a highly competitive business. Rockwell primarily competes with ABB Ltd (ABB), Cognex Corporation (CGNX), Honeywell International (HON), Siemens AG (OTCPK:SIEGY) and Mitsubishi Electric Corporation (OTCPK:MIELY). Some of the companys competitors, which are large diversified companies, also have business interests outside of industrial automation. A few smaller companies that compete with Rockwell, like Cognex, have business interests only in industrial automation. These companies have a limited portfolio of industrial automation products. Rockwells competitive advantage is its large portfolio of industrial automation products, technology differentiation and domain expertise.

In the third quarter of fiscal 2019 Rockwell delivered mixed results. The company reported fiscal 2019 Q3 revenue of $1,665 million, down 2% YoY from $1,699 million in the year-ago quarter. However, organic sales were up 0.5% YoY. Fiscal 2019 Q3 net income came in at $261.4 million or $2.20 per share, compared to $198.6 million or $1.58 per share in the year-ago period. Adjusted EPS was $2.40, up 11% YoY compared to $2.16 in the year-ago period. The company updated its fiscal 2019 adjusted EPS guidance range to $8.50 to $8.70 from $8.85 to $9.15 earlier.

Operating margin was 23.8% compared to 22.5% a year ago, impacted by lower incentive compensation expense. The company witnessed strong growth in longer-cycle end markets and weak growth in shorter-cycle end markets. Longer-cycle end markets include oil and gas, pulp and paper, mining, and life sciences, which grew in double digits. Shorter-cycle end markets include automotive, semiconductor, and food and beverage, which witnessed declines.

End market cyclicality always impacts industrial automation companies, there is nothing new in it. Further, in a challenging macro environment 2% revenue decline is not a big disappointment. What is encouraging is that, according to a report, the industrial control and factory automation market is expected to reach USD 269.5 billion by 2024 from USD 160.0 billion in 2018, at a CAGR of 9.08%. Industrial Internet of Things or IIoT is driving growth in this market. In IIoT, use of smart sensors and actuators drive manufacturing output.

Rockwells peer group includes ABB Ltd, Cognex Corporation and Honeywell International. Rockwells GAAP forward PE ratio is 20.98x, compared to ABBs 29.03x, Cognexs 55.94x and Honeywells 20.15x. Rockwells trailing 12-month price to sales ratio is 2.94x, compared to ABBs 1.38x, Cognexs 10.48x and Honeywells 3.09x. Rockwells trailing 12-month price to cash flow ratio is 17.95x, compared to ABBs 18.15x, Cognexs 30.70x and Honeywells 18.77x.

Compared to its peers, Rockwell is attractively valued around the current price. However, the company has a not so strong balance sheet. Its cash on balance sheet is $913.4 million and total debt is $2.24 billion. Net debt is $1326.6 million. The company isnt cash-rich, and it is funding its growth activities partially through debt. However, its net leverage is 0.88x, which means its debt-load isnt alarming. Moreover, the company has generated $1.07 billion of net operating cash flow, and $591.64 million of free cash flow in the past twelve months, which are encouraging.

The companys mission is to establish the connected enterprise with the help of smart manufacturing, leveraging the power of smart sensors and analytics. The company will help its customers convert their enterprise to a connected enterprise where IIoT will play a major role. This will create demand for many of the companys products. In addition, the companys motion control products will see rising demand since they are basically robotics products and robotics is a high growth sector. Compared to these demand drivers, Rockwells debt problem isn't a serious issue.

In the last four years Rockwells revenue growth remained flat. I expect the growth drivers mentioned above will drive its revenue growth at a CAGR of mid-single digit, say 5%, in the next four years. Its trailing 12-month revenue is $6694.1 million. At a CAGR of 5%, its 2023 revenue will be $8545 million or $73.03 per share. At todays price to sales ratio is 2.94x, the stocks 2023 price will be $214.71.

A large percentage of Rockwells sales in the U.S. and Canada are achieved by distributors. In other countries also, a high portion of its sales are achieved by a limited number of distributors. Disruptions to the companys distribution channels could adversely affect revenue growth.

The ability of the company to correctly identify the changes in demand patterns of the customers results in revenue growth. If the company fails to identify changes in customers demand patterns, revenue growth will be adversely affected. In addition, if the company fails to anticipate broader industry trends, demand for its products could decrease.

Many of Rockwells products are products of the future, such as the iTRAK intelligent track system and the connected smart products. Although the companys revenue growth remained flat in the past four years, in the next four years its revenue is expected to grow in mid-single digit driven by demand for such products. Long-term growth-oriented investors can buy the stock around the current price.

Disclosure: I/we have no positions in any stocks mentioned, and no plans to initiate any positions within the next 72 hours. I wrote this article myself, and it expresses my own opinions. I am not receiving compensation for it (other than from Seeking Alpha). I have no business relationship with any company whose stock is mentioned in this article.

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Rockwell Automation: A Slow But Steady Growth Story - Seeking Alpha

Beware the automation paradox – ZDNet

Download this complimentary webinar to learn how to use Forrester's automation framework to guide decisioning, rationalize your automation portfolio, and prepare for the future of work.

In 1983,Lisanne Bainbridge(a researcher at the University of Reading in the UK) wrote the following prescient words in her widely cited paper "Ironies of Automation":

"By taking away the easy parts of [the] task, automation can make the difficult parts of the human operator's task more difficult."

In other words, automate all the easy things, and what's left for people to do? The hard things.

This maxim has never been truer. When systems become too automated, their behavior in key respects becomes harder and harder to predict and set them straight when they go wrong requires deeper and deeper expertise. While we are in a world of dramatically increasing automation --chatbots,DevOps pipelines,AIOps, and more -- the dark side is increasingly seen in problems such as the Boeing 737 MAX. When human factors are left out of the design process, and humans, therefore, cannot function effectively as a coordinated system with the automation, very bad things can happen.

On a less dramatic front, here at Forrester, we are hearing signals that not all is well on the automation front. A few large but very competent clients have mentioned to me lately that the mean time to restore (MTTR) is drifting upward, unexpectedly given their investments in trying to reduce it. Bob Davis of Plutora (a company that aggregates a lot of operational IT data) confirmed this in a conversation: "We've become sensitive to the topic of MTTR over the past six months as a measure of maturity. As customers get more sophisticated, we're seeing unexpected behavior, with MTTR going up."

Note that MTTR may not ultimately be a great metric to keep tracking; John Allspaw of Adaptive Capacity Labshas criticized it. But as it is such a widespread industry metric, I still believe it is a useful though imperfect signal, especially over larger-scale data sets and longer time horizons.

We also have statements from vendors such as Atlassian and Zendesk that the effective lifespan of knowledge articles is shrinking and the incidence of known errors (i.e., repeating incidents) is falling. This means that for any given incident, issue, or defect, there is a higher likelihood that it is a "zero-day" concern (to borrow a term from security). Such concerns require higher skills -- in classic service desk/NOC terms, it moves from Tier 1 to Tier 2 or 3.

And finally, there is the problem of Hollnagel's law of stretched systems, which states that "every system is stretched to operate at its capacity; as soon as there is some improvement (for example, in the form of new technology), it will be exploited to achieve a new intensity and tempo of activity." (Thanks to J. Paul Reed of Netflix for tracking the source of this down for me.)

All in all, the contradicting dynamics (a classic balancing feedback problem) can be represented thus:

So what is to be done? It's critical to recognize that this problem is inherent. It won't go away. But in our latest report, there are some recommendations, including:

This post was written by Principal Analysts Charles Betz and Chris Gardner. It originally appeared here.

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Beware the automation paradox - ZDNet

The automated system leaving welfare recipients cut off with nowhere to turn – The Guardian

Bad news comes to Australias welfare recipients in different ways.

Sometimes, the message comes in the post. More often than not, though, word arrives through a special email portal, or by text to a smartphone. The sender always says the same thing: Your payments have been suspended.

It happened to Keelan two months ago. He got a notification on his MyGov account, the online portal he uses to receive emails from Centrelink, Australias social security agency.

The 26-year-old has been surviving on Australias jobseekers payment, Newstart allowance, ever since his medical conditions anxiety, depression and OCD started affecting his studies.

His payments A$600 a fortnight were automatically stopped because he missed a phone appointment. It mattered little that he was not in a great state at the time.

I wasnt sure what day it was because my OCD was quite bad, Keelan tells the Guardian. I got a phone call that I didnt register. It turned out to be Centrelink and they cut off my payments. And I didnt hear from them again after that.

Keelan, who did not want his surname published, says he spent hours on the phone over several days trying to get his welfare payments back. Most of the money was delayed for about a week. He was broke and couldnt afford his medication.

When he doesnt take his meds, it sort of throws off my day-to-day function to the point where I cant complete a sentence, he says. My condition just gets worse and I go into a downward spiral where I need to go into care sometimes.

These suspensions are becoming increasingly common and will be considered by the UN special rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights, Philip Alston, who is examining the impact of digital technology on social safety nets around the world.

Australias welfare system is often touted by its politicians as the most efficient and the envy of the world.

Bureaucrats and politicians alike have embraced technology and automation with open arms. As part of a sweeping digitisation push slated to finish in 2022, benefits claims are now conducted online. Since 2013, welfare recipients have been pushed away from Centrelink shop fronts and on to the MyGov online portal.

The centre-right coalition government is already facing legal action over its Robodebt scheme, which critics say uses a flawed algorithm to accuse benefits recipients of owing a welfare debt. But there have been other, less-remarked-upon changes, too.

Last year, the government overhauled the way it sanctions welfare recipients accused of gaming the system. In a briefing to the privately run job service agencies that administer the new policies, an official summed up the changes: Processes will be automated as much as possible to simplify administration.

Welfare advocates say the consequences have been disastrous. In the space of a year, the new policy has increased the number of welfare payment suspensions to 2.7m.

In 12 months, welfare payments were stopped an extra 1m times.

Theres a shifting of decision-making that is increasing the amount of automatic suspensions, says the policy analyst Simone Casey.

Under the most recent changes, the government has prioritised welfare suspensions over sanctions, in which a person has their payments docked for doing the wrong thing. These penalties, which used to be applied manually by a staff member, have dropped significantly. Instead, a recipients money is cut off automatically until they satisfy their job agency consultant that they are committed to looking for work.

Casey, who used to engage with the government regularly in her work as a policy analyst adviser to not-for-profit job agencies, says that over time consultants have been handed less decision-making power over how to penalise or not the welfare recipients they are employed to help.

Consultants have less discretion when a welfare recipient does not turn up to an appointment or misses another compulsory activity. They enter a code into a system that automatically triggers a payment suspension.

The same goes when the welfare recipient fails to report their income or confirm they met their job search requirements via digital channels.

Money is stopped first, and questions are asked later. The idea is that this will encourage people to follow the rules.

In some cases its left single parents without money for food for their children over a weekend because they havent logged in and reported their attendance, says Adrianne Walters, a senior lawyer at the Human Rights Law Centre.

And so the computer says, No payments. And then that person is left without anywhere to turn until their employment service provider opens up again on the Monday.

The National Social Security Rights Network represents community legal centres who take calls daily from welfare recipients that feel wronged by the system.

Were definitely seeing more people call up because of automation, says Jai Manoharachandran, a policy officer at the network.

When youre living paycheck to paycheck, every little bit counts. And the idea that you might have to try and stretch your income for a few days before you get back-paid, its incredibly stressful for clients. They often dont understand why their payments have been suspended.

Rebecca Johnson, 39, lives in Perth, in Western Australia, with her 21-year-old son. He has autism and also receives government benefits. She says she honestly cant remember how many times her payments have been suspended.

Since the new policies were introduced, about 50,000 suspension notifications now go out to welfare recipients across the country each week.

When they contact their job agency, the consultant decides whether or not they had a fair reason for missing their appointment. If not, they are given demerit point, which can lead to harsher penalties.

But analysis of government statistics by the Guardian shows about 75% of the time, benefits recipients who had their payments suspended under the new system were not at fault. The data shows payments were suspended 2.7m times in 12 months, but only 654,ooo demerits were handed out.

The Guardian has tracked the new system since it was rolled out, finding that the homeless and single parents are disproportionately impacted. In six months, 55,000 homeless people received a suspension; yet there are only about 60,000 homeless people receiving welfare at any given time.

Meanwhile, across a controversial welfare-to-work program for single parents with children under five, 85% had their payments suspended automatically but were later cleared of wrongdoing. The overwhelming majority were single mothers.

On one occasion, Johnson says she had her welfare cut after she was given four phone appointments with her job agency over 10 days.

I was at work and they just kept changing them with no contact, she says.

There was no contact as to what was really going on. Just I kept getting these text messages saying that youve got appointment on this day, you got an appointment on this day.

The last text in the chain, shown to the Guardian, says: Your payment has been suspended for not attending your provider appointment. To restore payment you need to attend a provider appointment.

The government says payments are turned back on once people re-engage with the system. But observers say it doesnt always work like this in practice.

Manoharachandran tells the story of one client who was already broke when her welfare payments were suspended.

She didnt have money for the train to go to her job service provider, they say. She had no money for food or other essentials. So basically, she needed to get the suspension lifted as soon as possible. She ended up riding the train without a ticket and picking up a $200 fine.

And then when she got to the provider, they initially told her they couldnt see her that day and shed have to come back the next day to re-engage and get that suspension lifted. She didnt even have the money to get home. Shed already incurred a $200 fine getting there.

For Johnson, the suspensions mean stress and hoop-jumping at best. Other times, its much worse. You virtually have no money left, she says of living on Australias unemployment benefit, which is among the lowest in the OECD.

The last time her payments were suspended, she had no money for the weekend. And it wasnt even her fault: a system glitch with the digital app meant she could not report her income to Centrelink.

You try and do the right things, you still get punished, she says. Thats the way I see it.

The most vocal critic of this system has been Rachel Siewert, a senator with the Australian Greens.

The system is geared to be very aggressive towards job seekers, and people looking for work, she says. This is what we predicted would happen given the way the system is set up.

Over time, people receiving benefits in Australia have been given more responsibilities. Increasingly, this involves using technology an online portal or smartphone app to regularly report information back to the government.

The government has also established a trial for welfare recipients engaging with job agencies. In time, it hopes a large proportion of them will not go into an office for help and will instead deal with their consultant using an online platform.

Siewert is not convinced it will work. Im not having a go at technology but that it can make it harder, she says. Youve also got certain groups of people that dont have the same digital skills.

Im not saying older all older people dont understand technology, but many of them dont. Theyre finding themselves unemployed, later in their career, they may have been involved in an industry that didnt have to become particularly technically literate, and they are also being alienated through the approach.

The same goes for Johnsons son, whose autism means he struggles to navigate the increasingly digital system. He sometimes forgets to report his income to Centrelink. That does not trigger a phone call asking him what happened, just a payment suspension.

I have to remind him so we dont get paid for a day or two later until you report, Johnson says.

The government is convinced the new system is working. Despite the huge increase in welfare payment suspensions, it says most people end up having their payments restored before they are delayed.

Moreover, the new system has one clear benefit in its eyes. It is expected to save a few hundred million dollars.

Critics say the true cost is felt by people engaging with the system. Walters, of the Human Rights Law Centre, points to a study by researchers from the University of York that found welfare penalties were ineffective.

Thats that starting point, youve got a program that is causing the stress to Australian families, she says. And when you automate that programme, we automate the decision-making, you essentially turbo-charge those impacts.

Johnsons phone and email are full of messages telling her about her suspensions. She argues she should at least have a phone conversation with someone before her income is stopped.

But shes used to getting those notifications now. What does she think when she gets the news?

Oh, I dont know I probably just, Again? Theres always something, she says.

Its never-ending. What have I done this time? Or just another drama to deal with. I dont have time for this crap. Thats what I feel like.

Excerpt from:

The automated system leaving welfare recipients cut off with nowhere to turn - The Guardian


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