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19 June 2019
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Automatic's not for the people

11 July 2016 | Martin Read

Initial responses to Brexit will be inevitably drowned out by further dramatic developments in the months ahead, making any comment here very likely superfluous come publication. 

But while the result of the referendum will assuredly affect us all, another significant issue has also been trending lately.

The talk is of robotics and artificial intelligence, and the apparently inevitable automation of tasks that currently sit within the facilities manager’s purview. Surely lives of leisure lie in wait for us and our clients when robots take over facilities functions?

Well, in a word, no. Automation will continue its gradual march, of course, for example through self-starting floor sweepers and the like. But let’s be frank, we’ve  been talking about impending automation since the 1950s. Those who watched newsreels of shiny silver robots serving drinks would have been shocked if told back then that this seismic shift in the labour market still wouldn’t be part of 21st century life a whole sixty years later.

The fact is that our human reaction to automation tends to manifest itself not in fewer jobs but in new ways of doing things.

Way back in the 1980s, car manufacturers promoted themselves on the virtues of the robots introduced on to their assembly lines. But what we now have is a market supporting more and more specialist manufacturers. As automation has occurred, human ingenuity has developed new forms of markets to keep us all busy.

As for FM, there’s a good reason why it’s described as being all about the people — because truly effective facilities services are the result of qualitative conversations and constant engagement with those served. We humans crave communication and community, and the most successful technology is that which supports these needs.

Which brings me to your new-look FM World – a community-based magazine focused on best practice through professional development. FM World is now monthly in print, but we’ll be reflecting even more voices in these pages to help shape debate in this incredibly dynamic profession. There’ll be nothing artificial about the intelligence reflected in these pages. Tell us what you think of our new look via editorial@fm-world.co.uk.

Martin Read is managing editor of FM World