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New technologies could eventually displace jobs across the distribution map, from sales reps to truck drivers, according to MDM President Ian Heller in Will Automation Replace Sales Reps and Truck Drivers? But don't panic just yet; distributors have been having this same discussion for a century.
"None of this is new," said Heller. He cites an article from February 11, 1917, where a columnist in The New York Times describes a British study concerning a post-war labor surplus that recommended “opposing the use of automatic machinery” to create more jobs. This would mean the “scrapping of the enormous amount of up-to-date machinery,” putting “British manufacturers at a disadvantage with competitors like the U.S. and Germany, which employ every labor-saving device they can get hold of. It seems British competition will not be so serious a factor as some have thought.”
"So, a hundred years ago, people were concerned about how technology impacts jobs while acknowledging that automation drives international competitiveness," said Heller. "They debated the benefits and threats of 'labor-saving devices' just as we argue over the effects of artificial intelligence and robots on today’s job market."
This is the wrong argument to be having, he argues. "National competitiveness, economic viability and long-term job growth rely on the U.S. staying ahead of competitors in the implementation of advanced technologies…. If we fail to keep up with foreign competitors, we will lose those industries and jobs anyway: other nations will implement the technologies we spurn."
Read more about the future of automation in Will Automation Replace Sales Reps and Truck Drivers?