Billions of Jobs to Disappear by 2030. What Does that Mean for Manufacturing?

By 2022, one billion jobs will evaporate as a result of advances in automation technology, says futurist Thomas Frey. That accounts for one out of every four jobs. By 2030, that number will reach two billion, he predicts—roughly half of all jobs on the planet.
There could be an upside, however, as billions of new types jobs could potentially be created within the next two decades, potentially even exceeding the number of jobs lost. Catalytic innovations will emerge, creating entirely new industries in the process. Perhaps the Internet itself serves a model for predicting what will happen as other industries are disrupted thanks to technology breakthroughs. In 2011, McKinsey & Company found that “the Internet created 2.6 jobs for each lost to technology-related efficiencies.” In the future, new technologies may emerge with similar employment benefits.

3D Printing: The Manufacturing Technology of the Future

Thomas Frey, who will be giving a keynote at MD&M West, is especially optimistic about the potential of 3D printing technology to revolutionize manufacturing. In that belief, he joins Chris Anderson, former editor-in-chief of Wired magazine, who has predicted that 3D printing will ultimately be more important than the Internet. Indeed, it may have a bigger impact on manufacturing than Henry Ford's assembly lines, Frey believes.

Global employment is being disrupted at a pace never before seen in history, says Thomas Frey, who will speak on at MD&M West on February 12 in Anaheim, CA.

3D printing is poised to become an engineering discipline unto itself, and workshops devoid of workers will become common in nearly every manufacturing sector. Outsourcing will decline as the demand for 3D printing technicians surges. 3D printing undermines economies of scale in that it makes it as inexpensive to produce single parts as it is to produce thousands of parts.

In the medical realm, 3D printing is already used for a variety of applications such as producing scaffolds for tissue engineering, and producing custom prosthetic limbs and hearing aids. Ultimately it could be used to produce artificial organs as well.

In addition to 3D printing, robotics technology also stands to advance greatly in the coming decades. Automating our physical world is easily half a century behind the digitization era that was ushered in with mainframe computers back in the 1960s. Frey likens the robotic arms used in manufacturing to the mainframes of the 1960s adding that "the coming decades will be far less about humans competing against machines and far more about how we can leverage them to our advantage."

Brian Buntz is the editor-at-large at UBM Canon's medical group. Follow him on Twitter at @brian_buntz.

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