Opinion

Preparing the Indian workforce for the ‘Future of work’

Rajeev Mittal | Updated on August 24, 2021

Adopting automation and cloud technologies can undergird India’s transition to a hybrid or remote working model

The focus should be on adopting automation and preparing the workforce through reskilling and upskilling

The last couple of years have marked the intersection of two of the most important trends to redefine the future of work: working from anywhere, and automation. The pandemic has accelerated the adoption of automation across the world, as organisations try to manage remote workforces and worker proximity issues.

While automation creates opportunities for new, more meaningful types of work by replacing mundane, repetitive tasks, the level of preparedness of countries and industries will determine whether they benefit from these advancements.

According to ‘The Future of Work is Now: Is APAC Ready?’ report commissioned by Autodesk Foundation, India, Bangladesh, and Pakistan are least prepared for the coming wave of automation and the most at risk of losing jobs to it. India ranks 5th in terms of risk and 9th in preparedness. The risk is highest in industries like agriculture, manufacturing, and construction, which are labour-intensive.

Indians are also more likely to want to work completely from home than other countries, with 83 per cent of employees in India still nervous about going back to the office. The adoption of technology by businesses has also been slow or not aligned with the latest advancements. Furthermore, there are few measures to reskill and train employees for using these technologies.

Adopting automation and cloud technologies can undergird India’s transition to a hybrid or remote working model, while also unleashing the potential of Industry 4.0. Improving digital literacy, supporting disadvantaged workers, establishing robust infrastructure, and imparting skills can help workers transition into new technology-aided roles.

Robust cloud adoption

Cloud technologies can help organisations become more resilient and competitive, even in sectors like manufacturing, architecture, construction, and engineering (AEC) that require the physical presence of workers. Digital solutions like Building Information Modelling (BIM) and generative design (GD) can help organisations reap the benefits of automation by leveraging the capabilities of machine learning and artificial intelligence (AI).

BIM is an intelligent 3D model-based process that provides insight and tools to manage projects faster, more economically, and with less environmental impact. It enables AEC teams to work and collaborate in real time, from anywhere. They can keep projects moving and save valuable hours by streamlining project process with centralised data, workflows, and progress reports.

Leveraging BIM enabled Bangalore International Airport Ltd (BIAL) to complete the Terminal 2 project at the Kempegowda International Airport, Bengaluru in record time. Using BIM through the entire project lifecycle as the design and planning platform also enabled BIAL’s teams to successfully merge their sustainability and project goals.

GD is a form of AI that leverages cloud computing to provides designers and engineers with valuable insight so they can make faster and better design decisions. Manufacturers can explore thousands of designs in less time than it would take to deliver a single concept using traditional processes.

This reduces the need to pass designs back and forth between domain experts, thus shortening the time to market and reducing costs. Experts can then focus on assessing the best design options for all the phases of product design and manufacturing. GD has helped Decathlon, the French sports equipment manufacturer, reimagine the biking experience with lighter, stronger, customizable, and more sustainable bicycles.

By eschewing carbon fibre (the industry standard for performance bikes, but difficult to recycle) and 3D-printing the bicycles from aluminium instead, the company aims to cut back on the raw materials and transportation.

A culture of lifelong learning

Automation is integral to Industry 4.0, especially in the APAC region – home to 64 per cent of the world’s industrial robots. Revenue from AI platforms is forecast to grow twice as fast in APAC than anywhere else in the world between 2019 and 2024.

This may entail changes to tasks, or the use of technology to augment some jobs. It may also make some jobs redundant or create entirely new ones. Taking proactive steps to address the impact of automation will lead to better outcomes for workers, business, industries, governments, and societies.

Avoiding or delaying automation is not the solution. Instead, the focus should be on adopting it and preparing the workforce for it through reskilling and upskilling. This may require developing new credentialing and certification programs. Companies invest in learning-and-development programs to build adaptability and resilience and building a culture of lifelong learning among their employees.

Challenges: the foundation for innovation

Historically, innovation has stemmed from crises, especially those related to public health. The only way to reimagine how we work, learn, and play together, and help our communities thrive is to augment human ingenuity with powerful technology. With the right tools, training and resources, we will have a highly adaptable and resilient workforce that will thrive in the future of work – a future that has already arrived.

The writer is Managing Director, India & SAARC, Autodesk

Published on August 24, 2021

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