21 Feb 2018

Retail automation: Will robots take my job?

As advancements in technology continue to emerge, automated is becoming an increasing part of the fashion industry. 48 percent of 1,896 experts expect technology to displace more jobs than it creates by 2025, according to Pew Research and Jack Ma, CEO of Chinese online giant Alibaba recently stated that "artificial intelligence and robots will kill many jobs." However, even though the statement sounds rather bleak, how much truth does it really hold?

Nearly nine in ten jobs which have disappeared since 2000 were all lost to automation, as newer robots are able to carry out precise operations, make less mistakes than their human counterparts and are less wasteful over all. Unlike humans, robots do not need food, water or air or even light to function and do not need regular breaks like humans. Although robots still remain incredibly expensive, over time they tend to cost less than human workers. Which is why the retail industry is "doomed," according to the website willrobotstakemyjob.com.

The American-based site, which allows users to enter their job titles in the quest to find out how likely it is for their jobs to be replaced by automation and robots, reported more than 300,000 searches in December. 47 percent of the current jobs in the US are at risk of becoming fully automated, triggering a landslide concern over job security. But what percentage of these roles are actually within the fashion scope? According to the website, models and retail salespeople are the most likely to lose their jobs to robots in the future, with a 90 to 100 percent chance of being replaced.

However, those with a more creative role in the fashion industry, such as pattern maker, designers, photographers and editors were found to have a much smaller chance of losing their jobs to robots. Fabric and apparel pattern makers face a 0.49 percent chance of seeing automation take away their jobs, making it one of the safest jobs in the industry. Fashion designers have a 2.1 percent chance of being replaced by robots, as do photographers, while writers have a 3.8 percent chance and editors a 5.5 percent chance of losing their jobs to robots in the future. 

The retail sector has changed vastly in the past decade, with online shopping changing the entire landscape of how we shop and work. Warehouses have replaced stores, robotic arms are replacing pick and pack humans, automated delivery drones are replacing the delivery van driver, so it should come as no surprise if robots do kill some jobs in the fashion industry. For now however, AI has yet to catch up to the creativity and inspiration designers, writers and photographers wield. 

More fashion trends forecasting and industry analysis on FashionUnited.uk 

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