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How Increased Industrial Automation Opens Up Job Opportunities

Eclipse Partner Aidan Madigan-Curtis was a recent guest on FreightWaves' Great Quarter, Gals podcast

  • Sep 20, 2022
  • 3 min read

By: Eclipse Ventures

The primary benefits of using technology to expand automation across manufacturing and supply chain operations are well known: Increased efficiency drives productivity improvements leading to higher revenue. What may be less familiar is how the broader use of automation transforms the available roles and responsibilities within factories and warehouses, enabling organizations to attract and retain a more diverse workforce than was previously possible. 

This was one of the topics discussed by Aidan Madigan-Curtis, Partner at Eclipse Ventures, when she was a recent guest on the Great Quarter, Gals podcast hosted by Kaylee Nix and Grace Sharkey, journalists at FreightWaves, a provider of global supply chain news and market intelligence. Sharkey is also an entrepreneur and a former supply chain executive. Drawing on data-driven research, the podcast digs into the decision-making of companies and leaders on the movement of goods and the surface transportation of freight across the U.S. 

As Madigan-Curtis noted, physical industries desperately need to appeal to a broader sector of the population with so many jobs presently remaining vacant. U.S. manufacturing is predicted to have 2.1 million unfilled jobs by 2030. Technology alone can’t fully transform the operations of factory floors and warehouses—more workers with a range of skill sets are also needed. 

Removing the Talent Barriers in Manufacturing and Supply Chains 

“What I’m most excited about is not only bringing technologies into play to help make these operations more efficient, but also attracting a more diverse set of talent that can participate in physical industries through these technologies,” she said. Madigan-Curtis highlighted the transformational technologies provided by startups, including Eclipse portfolio companies, such as Bright Machines, an innovator in intelligent, software-defined manufacturing, and Voxel, which is building the future of computer vision and machine learning for operations, risk, and safety. 

Change within physical industries takes time, but as new technologies are adopted, there are positive ecosystem effects, according to Madigan-Curtis. She cited the example of how the ongoing deployment of robotics in warehouses has led to a need for workers to have better tools explicitly designed to help them interact with both robots and the software powering them. 

More applications are being built on low-code or no-code development platforms to automate manual tasks which may have previously required workers with specific physical abilities and technical skills. Without such barriers to entry, there are greater opportunities for much broader groups of employees to safely, efficiently, and effectively work in areas of manufacturing and the supply chain which were previously off-limits to them. 

“It’s opening up the opportunity for people to think about upskilling themselves and encouraging them to push themselves,” Madigan-Curtis said. “It’s never been more apparent how ripe industries like manufacturing and transportation are for evolution.” 

In determining whether or not to invest in an industrial technology company, along with assessing financial factors, investors today also weigh up a company’s environmental, social, and governance (ESG) commitments. Of particular interest are an organization’s current diversity, equity, and inclusion (DE&I) strategy, and its future plans as part of the social pillar of ESG. 

The Urgent Need for Supply Chain Transformation 

Madigan-Curtis also talked about the unprecedented levels of disruption taking place across global supply chains due to the effects of various factors, including the COVID-19 pandemic, geopolitical issues, and climate change. It’s impossible to ignore the impact of those delays since everyone has personally experienced unfulfilled or lost orders, as well as late deliveries, she said. Having supply chain issues front and center has highlighted and further pushed the urgent need for industry transformation. 

“We went from a world where everyone was able to go to a store and pick up what they needed to a world where we really have to rely on new technologies, enabling faster deliveries and faster manufacturing to service our needs,” Madigan-Curtis said. “We’ve seen a lot of change, which is coming from a very tangible set of experiences that everyone all together has had over these past two years.” 

Companies are now much more open to considering one or more different approaches to moving money off their balance sheets to shore up the supply of components, which today may come from the other side of the world. They also have recent experience of lost revenues due to not having inventories available when customers wanted to buy from them.  

“We’re living through a very fascinating time where companies and their leadership are actually much more able to assess the risks of having either single-sourced or very brittle one-way supply chains,” she said. “We’re seeing a major tailwind in decision-makers being able to weigh up the benefits of a CapEx decision that may have historically been considered too expensive.” 

Supply chain decision-making is becoming a lot more rational, leading to more diversification in where companies decide to source, build, manufacture, ship, and deliver. At the same time, technologies are enabling them to attract a more diverse set of talent, Madigan-Curtis concluded. 

Follow Eclipse Ventures on LinkedIn and Twitter for the latest on the Industrial Evolution. 

Tags
  • Diverse Talent
  • New Economy
  • Supply Chain

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