A channel executive friend of mine recently emailed me details of a 2016 study from the Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce that offered sobering data about some segments of the American workforce. Here are some excerpts:
- Jobs are back, but they are not the same jobs that were lost. The Great Recession decimated blue-collar and clerical jobs, whereas the recovery added primarily managerial and professional jobs.
- Manufacturing still has 1 million fewer jobs than it did before the recession began (in 2008).
- The largest occupational group in the American economy, routine office and administrative support jobs, lost 1.4 million jobs during the recession and recovery, primarily because of automation and the rise in digital information storage.
I don’t see those jobs coming back – ever. Do you believe that if the newspaper industry just thinks smarter and tries harder it will rebound to its past employment levels? Are the photographic film and videotape rental industries poised to come roaring back? No way. You can’t fight progress just like you can’t fight gravity.
This statistic from the Georgetown report blew my mind because it illustrates how technology changed things so quickly: “In 2000, three-quarters of the world’s information was stored on paper and on analog formats, such as audio and videotapes. By 2002, digital storage surpassed analog storage and, by 2007, 94% of the world’s information was stored digitally.”
What does this trend mean for POS solution providers? Opportunity.
Resellers who provide systems that replace manual labor play an important role in keeping businesses running efficiently. Humans will never be replaced completely, of course, but if a task can be performed automatically (vs. manually), it should be done automatically. Those tasks will be accomplished faster, consistently, and with greater accuracy. I talked with a Vantiv reseller earlier this year whose sales were rising because he offered self-service kiosk technology at quick-serve restaurants. It was difficult for his merchant customers to find reliable, affordable help, so they are augmenting that – and staying profitable – through POS payment technology. Other Vantiv partners I’ve talked with are helping their customers by tying the POS with back-office functions such as inventory and payroll, reducing the merchant’s overhead.
This also means that to compete today and in the future, resellers need to embrace automation inside their own organizations. We discussed this late last year in our PaymentsEdge Advisory Services special report titled “Automation Software Reshaping The POS Channel,” and I saw this concept come to life two weeks ago on the Retail IT VAR Of The Future stage in Orlando.
Vantiv reseller partner Chris Rumpf, who expressed strong opinions about the findings of our Automation Software Report, said on VAR Of The Future stage, “When you automate what you provide, things change for you. You lower expenses and your profits go up. For the customers who pay us basically an insurance policy each month for us to keep them up-and-running, our effective hourly rate is $2,100. Our staff spends less time on those core tasks – we automate most of it.” When Rumpf announced that $2,100 figure, I could hear a few gasps then a murmur from the executives in the room.
So the bottom-line question is this: Will you adapt your business to take advantage of automation, growing your sales and increasing your internal efficiencies? Or will you be a victim of automation, another worker displaced because you lack unique skills?