Will Automation Affect Jobs in the Electrical Trade?
December 15, 2021
The world is changing. Employers in many industries are turning to automation. This is particularly evident in manufacturing plants, where a machine can complete repetitive tasks faster and with more accuracy than a human.
Employers are likely to tell you that automation is a good thing because machines can increase efficiency and lower overhead costs.
Employees tell a different story: automation is taking away jobs.
But not all industries are subject to worker automation. The question is, is there any risk that the job of an electrician will become automated by machines?
Careers in the construction trades are relatively safe from automation.
In manufacturing, robots operate in predictable indoor settings, completing repetitive tasks on an assembly line. Consumer goods giant Amazon has previously rolled out machines that completely automate the job of packaging orders. These machines can operate 24/7 and package thousands of boxes per day. And the machines don’t receive a paycheck – they effectively replace the jobs of thousands of line workers.
It is a different story when it comes to automation and the construction industry. Daily tasks on a construction site are much harder to define, and day-to-day work is often filled with surprises and uncertainties. Skilled laborers work under challenging conditions that often change. And they work in various environments that can differ every hour: enclosed spaces, open spaces, in heavy rain, in extreme heat, on sand, dirt, mud, beneath ground, above ground, etc. Robots can complete repetitive tasks, which may eliminate the need for human workers. But they require environments that are easy to navigate and don’t change, which certainly doesn’t describe the average jobsite. There is not yet a robot that can do everything that a skilled laborer working on a construction site can do. There are too many variables.
The construction industry poses two additional challenges that prevent full automation: strict regulations and complex working procedures. Efforts towards automating any aspect of construction will be slowed by the necessity of meeting these challenges.
As of now, electricians don't have to worry about job automation, as daily tasks vary considerably, and work is often very specialized.
As you’ve seen, the need for human electricians is not going anywhere, and that’s a good thing.
As we discussed above, it is difficult for a robot to keep up with varying work demands. And the simple truth is, the work that electricians do is extremely complex.
Think about it like this. A machine that tightens bolts on an engine can complete that same task thousands of times per day and do so with zero fatigue. Repetitive manufacturing-related tasks require no more understanding than how tight the bolt needs to be. But can that robot conceptualize how the engine exists, or find ways to make it work better, or identify and fix problems? No. It is designed to do one task: screw in a bolt.
Apply that same line of thinking to the type of work electricians do. Electricians must understand electrical concepts, apply those concepts to large electrical systems, and work on them in a variety of applications and environments. Electricians don’t show up to a job site and do the same task over and over. Like most jobs in the construction trades, electricians work on projects that vary in size, scope, and purpose.
Electricians work on complex tasks. In general, automation machines replace workers who do repetitive tasks in controlled settings. There is little risk that machines will replace electricians.
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