Reader Feedback: Automation and Employees

April 5, 2013
Why Is There a General Perception That Robots and Automation Always Mean a Reduced Head Count?

Just had a look at your editorial page in the February issue of Control Design ("Brave New Robot World").

The thing that really resonated with me was the fact that there seems to be a general perception that robots and automation always mean a reduced head count. I guess if that's what you are going after, then that's what it can be.

When I started with Leahy more than 15 years ago and was asked to introduce automation into the plant, I was a little apprehensive. I thought that I was going to be the instrument of reduced head count.

We had about 85 employees back then. All those folks that got automated out of a job were simply moved to other jobs that still required human intervention and decision-making. It seems you just can’t get away from those.

I think we are proof that it is indeed possible to compete in today's markets by taking advantage of the technological advances that are available. Those advances do not necessarily have to be associated with slashed head count. We now have about 225 employees and produce about five times more product, with much better quality control and uniformity than we did back then.

I guess it all depends on the philosophical approach of the company. I guess it's clear which route we took!

Gerald Beaudoin,
automation project manager,
Les Vergers Leahy