Business Monday

Will automation change your job? Yes — and no, CEOs say

This week’s question to South Florida CEOs who are on the Miami Herald CEO Roundtable: What jobs in your industries do you think could be at risk from automation in the years to come?

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As a technology company that builds software to automate the construction process, we see first-hand the impact technology is having on jobs in construction. In the years ahead, some jobs in the construction industry will change, others will be eliminated, and new ones will be created. This is necessary and will have a positive impact in construction because the industry is forecasting a labor shortage in the coming years. Automation will be required to meet the needs of the construction industry with the available labor pool.

Ron Antevy, president and CEO, e-Builder

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Those which focus on the head and not the heart. On the other hand, only a human being — and one with a big, big heart — can do what we do, which is behavioral therapy with special needs children. In fact, our field repeatedly is identified as one least likely to be affected by automation! Love can’t be programmed.

Maria Arizmendi, behavior analyst and president, Progressive Behavioral Science

While construction and real estate development are estimated to be over $10 trillion globally, our industry is one of the least technologically automated and advanced as compared to others. Yet, human workers and craftsman continue to be in critically short supply. Despite the slow evolution and adoption of new technologies, construction is ripe for change… it is just a question of “when.”

Noah Breakstone, founder and managing partner, BTI Partners

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The advent of artificial intelligence could impact some jobs in the legal industry. In particular, complex litigation often involves the review by lawyers and paralegals of huge numbers of documents. Increasingly, these reviews will be facilitated or performed through artificial intelligence applications, which will greatly reduce the time required to be expended by legal staff on this time consuming task. Similarly, billing and accounts receivable functions are likely to be increasingly handled through automated payment systems, which will decrease the number of accounting personnel required.

Bowman Brown, partner and chairman of the Executive Committee and the Financial Services Practice Group of Shutts & Bowen

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Any job in the service industry is at risk of automation. This is especially true in retail and banking. Pay attention during your next trip to Target or your bank. You will notice many customers prefer to use the self-check out lanes or a kiosk. It may be because it is faster or it may be because the customer prefers to cut out the interaction with the cashier or banker. With a kiosk there is no one seeing how much money is in your account, the size of your new jeans, or how much you are spending on certain items. As customers become more comfortable with self-check out lanes, they will be used in more retail stores and banks.

Patricia Elizee, managing partner, Elizee Law Firm

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All of them. But automation also opens new opportunities. As the world becomes ever more digital, I anticipate many professions will evolve to support a new environment rather than simply become automated.

Richard Fain, chairman and CEO, Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd.

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I don’t view automation as placing jobs at risk. Fundamentally, I believe it provides opportunities for people to retool their skills as roles and functions will clearly change. Automation and advancements in technology will impact virtually all jobs as we know them today.

Jeffrey Freimark, president and CEO, Miami Jewish Health

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Streamlining our work processes and protocols is a constant, primary goal at The Children’s Trust, and it’s one we’re aggressively pursuing. Data entry, data analysis, pulling reports — these are all things that can be handled through digital means and automation. Taking the onus off staff to perform those tasks means they can be freed up to concentrate on other crucial facets of our work, and it’s an opportunity to dedicate even more funds toward serving the children and families of Miami-Dade County.

James Haj, president and CEO, The Children’s Trust of Miami-Dade County

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We are in an entertainment industry where the guests’ experience and speed of service is critical. Therefore, I believe the jobs that could be at risk are those in which technology will reduce waiting time for entry and transactions. It would give our guests more time to enjoy all there is to do at the annual Youth Fair or at one of our many Fair Exposition events.

Bob Hohenstein, president and CEO, Miami-Dade County Youth Fair and Exposition

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As information and data becomes more and more transparent, we are seeing less reliance on realtors with buyers going directly to the source. We’re also seeing risk in some trade industries, like construction for example, where project management teams are being reduced due to increased communication technology. Property management personnel is needed, but can be reduced with increased technology on security and valet parking, as there is more car sharing and more walk-ability.

David Martin, president and co-founder, Terra

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We are a ‘high-touch,’ customer-driven business, so there will always be a premium on client interfacing. Still, we’ve seen some technological advances. Automated robotic boat storage will be a valuable tool for marina operators, and might start replacing manual forklift use in dry storage facilities. One of our partners, Desarollo MOR, is pioneering this technology in South America with more than 1,500 automated boat storage units in operation. At Marina PARC Miami, we are partnering with innovators, including Rockwell Automation and Ace World Industries, to bring this technology to Virginia Key. Large boat manufacturers are also automating their production lines, similar to what automotive companies have been doing for decades. On the business side, a growing amount of basic legal work is now being driven by software that saves time and costs, particularly when it comes to drafting standardized documents.

Aabad Melwani, president, Rickenbacker Marina, and managing principal, Marina PARC

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Interestingly enough, automation is growing in multiple industries. We’ve seen automation in stores, on the highways with toll booths, and even in the form of artificial intelligence (AI). While human interaction is important, particularly in the field of education, even our industry is implementing automation. The Watson AI teaching assistant was used for an online class in which students did not discern they were communicating with a machine. I also predict call center jobs may be at risk as companies experiment with AI products such as Amelia, which can learn answers to frequently asked questions.

Avis Proctor, vice president of academic affairs and president, North Campus at Broward College

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Automation — and innovation — are two sides of the same coin. Automation often entails the loss of low-skill jobs and/or reduction of wages, which in turn produces a greater need for affordable and workforce housing. Given the complexity and creativity that is essential for the development of affordable housing, automation is not something I am particularly concerned with right now — on the contrary, we need more smart, qualified people. As developers, we work with funding and regulatory agencies, equity providers, lenders, public officials, construction professionals, communities, and of course, our residents. All of this complexity requires strong people skills and ingenuity — it’s all about relationships, building trust, and identifying opportunities

Matthew Rieger, president and CEO, Housing Trust Group

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THE MIAMI HERALD CEO ROUNDTABLE IS A WEEKLY FEATURE THAT APPEARS IN BUSINESS MONDAY OF THE MIAMI HERALD. RECENT QUESTIONS HAVE INCLUDED:

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