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WORCESTER – Carl Sjogren is worried.

Sjogren is the fourth generation in his family to own Sjogren Industries, a Southbridge Street company that makes tools for the wire industry.

To survive in the global economy, Sjogren turned to automation. This represents 70% of his business and Sjogren does not regret his decision as it allows his business to operate more efficiently and remain profitable.

However, Sjogren worries about what the future holds. Automation could displace millions of workers around the world, a scenario that is bad for business.

According to Sjogren, we live in an interconnected economy. If there are massive job losses and economic instability, companies that buy Sjogren’s products will reduce their orders.

“I, as a business owner, am very concerned about what is going to happen. I see the problem (of automation) coming, but I don’t know how to fix it, ”he said.

Advantages and disadvantages

Sjogren Industries foreman Gary Collette switched off a machine built in 1938 which was replaced by a modern fully automated machine.

Automation has its benefits, according to business owners, worker groups and academics who spoke with the Telegram & Gazette. It frees workers from mundane and repetitive tasks so that they can perform highly skilled functions that provide an increased sense of satisfaction.

One example is a robot in the pharmacy at the Edward M. Kennedy Community Health Center in Worcester. It helps process prescriptions so staff can focus on other tasks.

“It saves time instead of manual (drug) counting,” pharmacy manager Kim Seigler said of the robot that has helped staff for the past 20 years. “Its accuracy isn’t perfect, but it’s pretty close.” Seigler noted security measures in place to detect infrequent errors.

These same experts interviewed by the T&G recognize the downsides of automation, namely the displacement of workers in certain industries. And these workers will have to be “re-qualified” to keep their jobs.

“Requalification” is a word that appears prominently in a report released last year by Gov. Charlie Baker’s administration titled “Shaping the Future of Work in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts”. He said COVID-19 has accelerated automation, e-commerce and digitization.

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