Automation Reduces Marginal Cost of Nonautomated Tasks

In a recent study, researches looked at the effects of automation on in a supermarket. They found that by automating the process of collecting payment, productivity of the non-automated task of scanning items increased 10%. An explanation for the improvement is that automation enabled specialization and specialization reduces the marginal cost of the other tasks which increases effort and therefore productivity.

This makes intuitive sense—being able to offload tasks frees up time to focus on the other ones.

What I find even more interesting is the inverse implication—manual tasks increase the marginal cost of all non-automated tasks. In other words, time and costs are higher for each manual task introduced into a workflow.

Read Automation Enables Specialization: Field Evidence.

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