Is AI a Threat to Blue-Collar Jobs, Too?

by Carolyn Mathas

We’ve long expected that Generative AI would threaten many white-collar jobs, but now it’s also gaining traction in the manufacturing industry, threatening blue-collar jobs as well. AI is accelerating the fourth industrial revolution, and manufacturing is already being transformed through automation, predictive maintenance, and quality control. Generative AI will increasingly transform production lines, resulting in fewer workers.

Evidence already exists. Smart transport robots and automated guided vehicles in warehouses and factories are eliminating tasks like operating forklifts. With Gen AI, technology can handle other, more complex operations that are currently conducted by humans.

Gen AI models can act as a “digital twin” for a production line or plant and run simulations without the need for shutting down a line or operating an expensive pilot plant. As more multi-modal technology is implemented, more blue-collar jobs will be at risk.

Today’s ‘experienced’ workers’ knowledge and expertise will be captured in their ‘digital supervisor twin. One digital supervisor twin, for example, may be able to support all maintenance or quality engineers for a production line or factory.

According to a Goldman Sachs 2023 analysis, advancements in Gen AI could expose up to 300,000 million jobs at risk worldwide due to automation. It also can bridge the labor shortage gap. According to the National Association of Manufacturer’s most recent quarterly survey, 72% of manufacturers said their top primary challenge was the inability to attract and retain employees.

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