Automation doesn’t always mean job cuts

As far as the Swiss government is concerned, digitalisation is the future; it wants to give new services and technologies freedom to develop without regulation. Automation is often synonymous with job cuts, but for one company in central Switzerland, it has meant hiring more staff.

Alpnach Norm, a cabinet maker in Obwalden in central Switzerland showed Swiss Public Television, SRF, how they managed to modernise without sacking people. 

Embracing ‘Industry 4.0’

In a 2018 study of more than 650 Swiss and German companies carried out by the consulting firm EY, almost half of the Swiss companies interviewed said that, like Alpnach Norm, they had embraced “Industry 4.0”, which encompasses automation, data exchange in manufacturing technologies, cyber-physical systems, cloud and cognitive computing.

The Swiss companies surveyed invest an average of 4.9% of their turnover in Industry 4.0 solutions. One third plans to increase spending by more than 5% in 2018. However, the majority think that high investment costs are an obstacle to implementation and that the shortage of skilled workers slows down development.

The spread of digitalisation in Swiss industrial production was evident at the recent SINDEX conference in Bern. Simon Ryser, director of Schneider Electric Schweiz, which is trying to bring augmented reality onto the factory floor, told SRF, “These days the focus is on how buyers can specifically benefit. The first big hype is over.” However, Rene Brugger, president of Swiss Technology Network, acknowledged that there is a trade-off between jobs and automation. “But without automation, competitiveness is lost. And that would cost even more jobs.” 

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