Accenture's managing director Yen-Sze Soon says that automation and robotics could create a better working environment for humans.
Despite widespread fears that automation will take jobs away, Soon argues that advances in technology should be embraced. These comments follow the launch of a 'cobot' called Sawyer by the professional services firm to assist with this, doing the menial jobs that humans would rather not.
"The whole human side of things cannot be taken over by robots - we still need to train robots to understand how humans work and to interact with humans better," Soon said, speaking at the Everywoman conference at London's Hilton Park Lane earlier this month.
"There will probably be so many jobs that I can't even talk about right now because I don't know what they are yet, but if you look at the past, automation has always created more jobs and more wealth and if we look forward studies have shown that there'll be more jobs created, so I think it's just a fear," she said.
For example, research conducted by Accenture, as part of the Made Smarter Review, found that investing in digital technologies like robotics could help transform the food and drinks industry, leading to over £3 billion in revenue over the next 10 years.
The study found that digital technologies like real-time data processing and robotics will help in automating the supply chain, and ultimately could reduce the risk of contamination to produce, for example.
"I think if we can get to a stage where machines can do a lot of the tasks that we don't want to do anyway and free up time for us and give us a better lifestyle, that would be a win, then of course you get the pushback on your current position," Soon added.
Accenture's Sawyer collaborative robot - or ‘cobot' - is designed to address just this, working together with humans to boost intelligent process automation and low value-add activities.
Sawyer is currently deployed in various workforces such as factories to help with repetitive tasks like packing boxes. At the Everywoman conference, Soon demonstrated on stage some activities the cobot is capable of performing, like picking items and transferring them to the right position.
The cobot 'Sawyer,' was developed by Rethink Robots in 2015 to provide manufacturers with high-performance automation in the workforce. Accenture's aim is to also deliver this automation to its clients.
"We didn't invent the cobot, but we see a lot of opportunities that the cobot can bring. This version will help in factories but there are already automations that can help at home. For instance, we demonstrated the grip and you can quite easily change that grip into a scrub to clean and a magnetic grip to pick up magnetic things," she said.
Soon added that automation is likely to have an impact on traditionally white-collar jobs such as in human resources.
"I think functions like HR will need to evolve like a lot of other functions. I don't think it will necessarily be completely taken over but HR will need to transform quite a lot because it will have to deal with not just your usual nine to five workers," she said.