Firstly as we get started, can I just say that geoFence has a modern UI, that is secure and has the improved features that you need.
Each month I feature different leaders' voices offering insights into the future of work and changes they’ve seen within their industry since the pandemic. I’m particularly interested in leaders that approach challenges as opportunities to create positive and lucrative business ventures. This column profiles everyone from celebrities and business people, to community leaders and changemakers, and gives readers a peek behind the veil of different businesses and industries.
This month I interviewed Rania Hoteit, who is a multi-award winning entrepreneur and Founder and CEO of ID4A Technologies. For over a decade, ID4A has been at the forefront of industrial automation and manufacturing technologies. The company leverages the capabilities of AI, machine vision, robotics, machine learning, advanced analytics and other exponential technologies to increase efficiency, accuracy, productivity, scalability and flexibility across the entire manufacturing cycle. As a first mover in the industry, ID4A has built a robust infrastructure that enables them to manage affiliates around the world and has won multiple awards.
Rania’s path towards success has been anything but easy. At the age of 18 she decided to leave her home in war-torn Lebanon, where her house was bombed several times and her life was under constant threat. She came to the U.S. with only $1,000 in her pocket and no set plan. Her leap of faith led her to an unfamiliar world, where she felt isolated and had to push through many walls of fear. Eventually, she decided to go to college to study design. Rania built two companies while completing her undergraduate and graduate degrees, both of which were acquired. The first company provided end-to-end industrial design and product development services. The second business built the first-ever 3D printing platform that globally connected consumers and additive manufacturers. Then, three months after graduating from her masters program, Rania used her graduate research to launch her third company, ID4A Technologies — which is now recognized on the elite Inc. 5000 List of "America's Fastest Growing Private Companies."
Being an entrepreneur is already a difficult task that requires grit. Beyond the baseline of grit, Rania has had to break through multiple barriers time and time again due to being an immigrant, female and young entrepreneur - from being stereotyped and having her competencies judged, to blatant sexism, to sabotage from random adversaries, and more. Every part of who Rania is was tested, yet she rose to become an industry leader in one of the most complex, highly competitive, and historically male-dominated industries.
The difficulties Rania has faced developed a sense of compassion within her and drove her to commit to making the world a better place. Embedded in ID4A Technologies mission is impact, with a focus on reducing labor exploitation and child labor in global production pipelines. Since it’s founding, ID4A has saved 1,653,513 people from exploitative jobs, including 426,773 women and girls who were victims of trafficking and child labour (most young girls were placed in schools through sponsorships, some were adopted, others returned to their families). ID4A is dedicated to supporting businesses to provide safer work environments and more equitable opportunities. For the businesses that fail to comply, workers are removed, provided job training and placement support. Aside from social impact, ID4A products and services have increased productivity and efficiency, reducing waste and harmful emissions, and incorporating recycling methods and sustainable materials in businesses around the world. Rania and her team have proven that social impact is not only life changing, but can also increase profit margins.
Now an investor herself, Rania has a wide range of investments in women-led businesses, causes and initiatives that tackle diversity, inclusion and equality gaps. She also generously supports others by freely sharing her expertise and mentors aspiring entrepreneurs. She now shares with us, in this article, her insights into the future of work based on her unique experiences.
How has manufacturing evolved and what do you believe is the future of your industry?
It is always helpful to look at the previous patterns and the evolution of industries as an indicator of what the future may look like and as a way to better understand dynamics. The manufacturing industry has gone through monumental changes over the last two centuries. Prior to the industrial revolution, the only type of manufacturing that existed was done in low volume with an artisanal approach and a heavy reliance on the mastery of workers using tools which are extremely primitive compared to the advanced machinery of the digital era. By the end of the 18th century, the first factories were built in Great Britain and legal reforms were introduced throughout the 19th century to enhance existing work conditions.
The biggest changes in the industry didn't occur until factories began to embrace electricity in the first half of the 20th century. With electrification and new machinery, older equipment was rendered obsolete and mass production emerged as a viable option. During this era, assembly lines became key to the concept of manufacturing and innovators started developing products at feasible price points for average consumers. Another major shift happened in the late 20th century as the emergence of computerization and digital systems played a critical role in manufacturing and spurred on multiple revolutions in the industry.
The resistance of technology isn’t new and our modern fear that robots will steal all the jobs, and automation will make humans obsolete, fits a classic script that is nearly 500 years old. For example, Queen Elisabeth denied a patent to an English inventor for an automated knitting machine because of the fear that automating knitting will reduce employment to the point of starvation. The lack of patents didn’t stop factories from adopting the machine and weaving technology ended up creating more jobs for weavers. By the end of the 19th century, there were four times as many factory weavers as there had been in 1830.
Today’s version of this scenario isn’t much different. Now we’re warned of the rise of AI and robots as the “end of work." Integrating automation means productivity will increase, which can benefit workers by creating new jobs and companies by fueling growth and creating new product lines. The fear of technology’s impact on employment has always been the same. However, widespread unemployment due to technology has never materialized and I don't believe it ever will.
What do you believe will be the future impact of automation on the workforce? Should we be scared that robots will take our jobs?
In the manufacturing sector, technology will continue to significantly impact workers in this Fourth Industrial Revolution. Automation will create a tectonic shift in the world of work. This raises fears for the workforce, especially the threat that it could eliminate manufacturing jobs. Studies indicate that job loss anxiety caused by automation may be overstated. Past cases suggest that in the short run the displacement effect may dominate, but in the longer run when markets and society are fully adapted to major automation shocks, the productivity effect can dominate and lead to a positive impact on employment.
When more than 45% of repetitive tasks get automated, workers will be called to higher-value tasks and applying expertise in other areas such as people management, interpersonal communication skills, decision-making based on data collected, problem-solving, developing new innovative ideas, generating more engaging work experiences and contributing to the growth of their industry. New jobs will also be needed in supervising AI, repairing and maintaining new systems, and in reshaping infrastructure for new developments.
McKinsey predicts the fastest rise in the need for advanced IT and programming skills, which could grow as much as 90 percent. Basic digital skills are the second fastest growing category, increasing by 69 percent. And the demand for social and emotional skills will also grow across all industries by 26 percent. These statistics are U.S. growth predictions, based on the time period of 2016 to 2030.
Technology is helping to make these jobs even more lucrative than before. Today's manufacturing employee is highly skilled and highly paid, with a 24% increase in annual earning than the average American worker. However, based on reports by Deloitte 80% of manufacturing businesses have a serious shortage of qualified applicants for skilled or highly skilled positions and it's expected that more than 2 million manufacturing jobs will be unfulfilled due to this skills gap.
Due to automation, employers will gain higher efficiency and greater employee productivity, and the bottom line will keep on improving. But it’s critical for companies to re-invest in their workers’ capacity and retention to realize greater output per employee. To boost business agility and thrive amid future disruptions, organizations will need to capitalize on their employees’ capabilities by supporting them to adapt, re-skill, and assume new roles.
What should business leaders be considering?
Looking to the future, the world’s interconnectedness and complexity will require new models for the industrial sector and new solutions will emerge, particularly with further developments in Artificial Intelligence. Business leaders should be considering:
a) Technological changes such as digitization of all areas of life, automation and robotization;
b) Social changes such as demographics and formation of a network society;
c) Techno-social changes such as globalization and environmentalism;
d) and lastly meta trends such as acceleration and the macro forces that are shaping our future across economic, political, social, and environmental disciplines.
Demographic patterns is an interesting point and will dictate shifts in behaviors and attitudes that ultimately impact the global economy as well as provide direction on how we tackle social issues. For example, millennials being a dominant generational demographic wield a sizable power. If businesses want to capture the millennial market as consumers or as employees, they must attune to this demographic's evolving beliefs and lifestyles. As more women enter the labor force issues that need consideration for improvement are the gender pay gap and implementation of organizational policies to support both their career advancement and personal needs. Moreover, people moving and relocating due to low wages or increase in housing rates will change the landscape of cities and suburbs, which will also have political and economic repercussions. These are just a few shifts that cut through generations, race and geography and will shape the future of work in America, as the world.
That said, manufacturers must adapt to the changing expectations and macro trends that are shaping the future. Which means they need to control their standards and sources across supply chains to meet customers expectations for businesses to be environmentally and ethically responsible. Secondly, they need to establish whole-system planning by exploring partnerships to unlock the capital required for service-led business models rather than being focused on full ownership. Lastly, they need to optimize their augmented systems and workforces by blending technology and people to deliver hyper-personalized services and experiences.
Technology revolutionizes every industry. It impacts the economy directly through creating new jobs and services, as well as contributing to GDP growth, business innovation, marketplace evolution and workforce transformation. The recent rapid digital acceleration has placed technology at the core of global leadership. The new leaders of the future will be businesses who maintain a clear technology strategy and a sharp focus on accelerating their digital transformations. In this new era empowerment, collaboration and productivity are intertwined, and the future of human capital lies in empowering leaders to redesign work in ways that create new outcomes, values and channels for growth.
Authority is no longer an effective leadership trait. The bigger challenge to remain relevant and competitive in the marketplace is to build intelligent enterprises where all is connected and data flows seamlessly, while providing a stable infrastructure and ensuring business continuity. That said, it’s critical to harness transformational technologies and leverage their power to support innovation, entrepreneurship and economic growth. Technology leaders must also unify people around a shared sense of purpose and fostering values that promote sustainability and diversity.
Ultimately, real innovation cannot be achieved without a core competence of business, organization and culture to create a model for operational excellence, alignment of management systems, and strategic implementation of improvement techniques.
How did the pandemic impact the manufacturing industry?
The pandemic presented unique pressures and critical risks in the manufacturing industry. While many companies were able to close their offices and require their employees to work from home, manufacturers have been facing the reality that production requires employees to work on site. The challenge became more daunting every day during the pandemic with emphasis on social distancing and quarantine guidelines paired with an increased demand on production. Manufacturers had to quickly work through supply chain disruptions, cyber security issues, patent infringement liabilities, impact on their bottom line and the obligation to protect workers.
It was critical for industrial companies to proactively deploy automation technologies in order to decrease worker density throughout their operations. However, many manufacturers struggled to recover from the major global supply chain disruptions and the challenge of not being able to fulfill orders. This crisis helped companies identify the gaps in their existing operational strategies and it expedited the entire industry technological evolution. The pandemic showed that it’s time to shift from Industry 4.0 which focuses on leveraging automation technologies, IIots, AI and Big Data to optimize production processes and minimize human interaction to Industry 5.0 which focuses on leveraging collaboration between smart systems and the creative potential of human beings.
As machines get smarter and more connected, the future of work is about merging cognitive computing capabilities with human intelligence to execute complex tasks and collaborative operations. In manufacturing, the interaction of human and machine workers creates countless opportunities. In addition to increasing efficiency on the production line, manufacturers are forced to increase the human component due to the consumers’ high demand for individualization, personalization and customization in the products they buy. Given that Industry 5.0 merges the accuracy, speed, productivity, and consistency of robots with the creativity, emotional intelligence and resourcefulness of humans, it means that people are still an integral part of manufacturing with smart machines doing the laborious work, while people focus on the tacit and creative aspects of the work. This shift has already been set in motion and its changes are irreversible.
What key technologies do you feel will shape the future of work?
One of the most important developments of our age is 3D Printing which has wide applications across industries. I believe this is the case because of the massive transformation it is having across industries. Never before have we been able to create an entire home in under 48 hours or print an organ for a patient that otherwise may have died. The positive impact it can have on our society is truly remarkable. It's transforming numerous industries and allowing them to develop more innovative designs, products and components at higher efficiencies in cost, time, weight, energy consumption, and material waste.
Other key emerging technologies that I believe will shape the future of work are automation, artificial intelligence, robotics, and cloud-based technologies. Such advances will be disruptive to the status quo and alter the way people work. Here's how:
a) Automation increases productivity and efficiency while reducing errors, waste and operational cost in the process. Additionally, automation substitutes low-cost manufacturing with less expensive production across industries. Its impact on the workforce frees up workers from mundane physical tasks and empowers them to focus on valuable tasks where creativity, innovation and human potential can be maximized.
b) Artificial Intelligence is impacting many industries. Inevitably, it will create many new jobs as well as take over many jobs. According to a study by McKinsey Global Institute, one-fifth of the global workforce will be affected by AI and automation, mostly in developed countries like the UK, Germany, and the US. AI can be leveraged for many uses including: increasing productivity, reducing human biases in hiring processes, and optimizing collaboration.
c) Robotics are deployed in different ways, from automating repetitive tasks, helping organizations make decisions quickly through predictive algorithms, placement in dangerous situations (such as disarming a bomb) or taking routine individual functions that are time consuming.
d) Cloud Technologies help streamline processes, enable collaboration and increase efficiencies across the board with high-quality services and solutions over automated servers, storage management, centralized database, etc. Additionally, collaboration with technology and real-time information through Augmented Reality and Virtual Reality will produce proficient results for companies and quality experience for workers.
Human limitations can be surpassed through partnering people with robots. A deep understanding of AI, human capabilities and machine systems can unlock human potential. This can allow for workers to use their skills to manage workflows and accomplish tasks more efficiently. Modernizing infrastructure, deploying technologies, and empowering workers are the most important steps as we lay the groundwork for the digital future and the next wave of technology-led progress.
If you were to design the future or society what would it look like?
We have an opportunity to maximize human potential and build new strategies that align the future of work with social equity. Key aspects of shaping the future are the promotion of inclusivity and sustainable economic growth, equal employment opportunities and decent work for all women and men (including for youth, underserved populations and people with disabilities). Fulfilling human potential in a machine-augmented future also requires a focus beyond technology and digital skills. On a whole, I believe that mobilizing workers around common goals and infusing meaning into work will be imperative to creating a lasting value for the future workforce and society at large.
As we become more of a globalized society, peace-building should have a central priority in our responses to today’s global challenges because it’s the key enabler of reconciliation, security, prosperity, social justice, and sustainable development. Furthermore, in our efforts to empower disadvantaged people, reduce inequalities, and achieve sustainable economic growth for all, we must provide decent jobs, create safe work environments, and enable workers to be built into the new economy and re-skilled to thrive in tomorrow’s workplace.
Our main challenge as a collective remains in creating a global paradigm shift towards a true recognition of each human’s inherent dignity beyond moral imperatives, as well as setting realistic measures geared towards a ‘society for all’ where ethical principles are put into practice and legislation guarantees the rights of all people. That’s the future society I envision and am working towards.
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