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Automation Isn’t About Job Loss. It is About Job Growth

January 27, 2017

The future of automation doesn’t look like a Twilight Zone episode or Orwellian society of robots with humans as their slaves. It looks like the mailing operation at Jet Mail Services, based in Hudson, Massachusetts, less than about an hour from Boston. Jet Mail Services provides direct marketing solutions for businesses ranging the gambit from Fortune 100 companies to local enterprises in the areas of finance, health sciences, education, not-for-profit, and high-tech industries.

Jet Mail Services have been BCC Software customers for six years, moving from the BCC Mail Manager LE product to the premium BCC Mail Manager FS, thanks to successful end customers increasing their mail volume.

“We had a major client that was slowly increasing from half million to a million (of mail pieces) a month, and we couldn’t keep up with the work,” said Data Processing Manager Vincent Attenasio.

Attenasio, who’s worked for Jet Mail Services for 14 of his 20 years in the mailing industry, saw his team getting scorched with long hours and mounting jobs. Working with BCC Software’s Professional Services team and implementing BCC Mail Manager mail sorting software tools like TaskMaster and Job Manager, Attenasio was able to save hundreds of man-hours.

“We worked up to 16 hours, five to six days a week, trying to get the work done,” said Attenasio. “We went from 45-minute processing time on jobs to 10 minutes with Job Manager. What was getting stretched to 16-hour days with flex shifts, we able to accomplish now in a normal working day with only occasional overtime.”

One of the biggest misconceptions about automation is that it eliminates jobs. McKinsey Global Institute reports that realizing automation’s full potential requires people and technology to work hand in hand. Their report finds that “the activities most susceptible to automation are physical ones in highly structured and predictable environments, as well as data collection and processing… And it’s not just low-skill, low-wage work that could be automated; middle-skill and high-paying, high-skill occupations, too, have a degree of automation potential. As processes are transformed by the automation of individual activities, people will perform activities that complement the work that machines do, and vice versa.”

Attenasio’s team is living proof of the report’s findings.

“Automation has allowed me as the manager to focus on adapters to other software and train the people I work with on the more complicated jobs,” said Attenasio. “I used to always get stuck doing (complicated job processing) because I was the only one that understood it. Now we have time to document and cross-train. We brought in another employee that used to be a production floor operator and trained her to use Mail Manager and she’s become a valuable asset.”

McKinsey Global Institute suggests that “half of today’s work activities could be automated by 2055, but this could happen up to 20 years earlier or later depending on various factors, in addition to other economic conditions.”

The report’s authors conclude by comparing this change in the workforce to that shown earlier in world history.

“Many workers will have to change, and we expect business processes to be transformed. However, the scale of shifts in the labor force over many decades that automation technologies can unleash is not without precedent. It is of a similar order of magnitude to the long-term technology-enabled shifts away from agriculture in developed countries’ workforces in the 20th century. Those shifts did not result in long-term mass unemployment because they were accompanied by the creation of new types of work.”

On a smaller scale, Attenasio found automation brings more joy and work-life balance to his employees.

“It has allowed a smoother and quicker workflow without working the 16-hour days. We can almost get same throughput, if not more, in a normal work environment. It’s been a major accomplishment,” said Attenasio. “It’s worked wonders for our overall ability to get jobs done in a quick turn around and keep people happy, and not stressed out or burnt out.”

Learn more about how automation is working in real life. Watch Attenasio’s testimonial, recorded this summer at the 2016 Information Exchange.

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