Reshaping Iowa's workforceJuly 12, 2017
Robots, artificial intelligence and automation are reshaping Iowa's workforce. Is your job at risk?
If one machine goes down inside the Country Maid plant, the whole operation devoted to churning out Butter Braid pastries comes to a screeching halt.
The stainless steel giants that make up the automated production line constantly talk with each other. When something goes wrong at one station, an alert is instantly sent to the next in line, effectively cutting workers out of the mix.
Over the years, the work of making Butter Braid pastries — frozen desserts sold through nonprofit fundraisers across the country — increasingly has shifted from human to machine labor.
Employees in the northwest Iowa plant keep watch over the sophisticated equipment, but it's up to machines to mix the dough, fold in giant blocks of butter and cut precise loaves of pastry.
Across Iowa, companies are making massive investments in automation that are raising productivity but require fewer workers. Since 2000, Iowa has shed nearly 39,000 manufacturing jobs, a 15 percent loss.
In addition, the rise of artificial intelligence is creating jobs and eliminating others far beyond the factory floor.
Fifteen years ago, 70 percent of the workers at Principal Financial handled paper transactions or customer interactions. Today, just 30 percent do.
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