Consider this a trend report of sorts, courtesy of the fine folks at the New York Times. Instead of a specific industry, however, we’re looking at the modern working world.
Increasingly, the Times finds, companies are choosing to invest in equipment and not people. That means more automation in production and fewer workers. Why have five line workers or a receptionist when you can have a machine or a computer do it for you?
The article includes this striking quote:
Workers are getting more expensive while equipment is getting cheaper, and the combination is encouraging companies to spend on machines rather than people.
“I want to have as few people touching our products as possible,” said Dan Mishek, managing director of Vista Technologies in Vadnais Heights, Minn. “Everything should be as automated as it can be. We just can’t afford to compete with countries like China on labor costs, especially when workers are getting even more expensive.”
On one hand, this is understandable. The stark reality of the world today, just months out of a recession that many fear could return with a single misstep, is that businesses have to cut costs. Workers are essential, powerful pieces of any company, but they are expensive. If you can replace a worker or two or three with an automated system…well, what makes that decision for you? Morality? Money?
That’s where the other hand comes in. Unemployment remains high and small business hiring is weak across the country, and that persistent unemployment strains the economy and American society. That’s a high price to pay, but as the Times notes, an increasing number of companies are paying it because they feel they have to in order to stay afloat. This is why a swift recovery is so badly needed.
Every small business is unique, and I certainly understand the need to save money. But I fear for a future that involves less hiring. Do you?
Photo credit to fodor at http://www.sxc.hu/photo/1280277