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Pie In The Sky

Stuart White

If I asked you which profession was likely to offer the biggest salaries, it’s a fair bet your answer would be banking and investment.  It’s the old adage that it takes money to make money and the assumption that those in the business of making money for their corporation and its clients will get the biggest bucks – generous salary packages, huge annual bonuses and an array of other perks from boxes at the theatre or opera, private enclosures with Cordon Bleu catering at major sporting events, luxury holidays with first-class travel and high-paying sinecure seats on company boards.  All that goes with the territory and it’s not liable to change any time in the near future.

But this week some interesting facts emerged which show a shift in equilibrium.  German software maker SAP has emerged as the best paying firm in the UK, with staff taking home an average basic salary  of ₤75,000, bumped up to £90,000 in pay and perks.  At current exchange rates that works out at about P1.154m basic and P1.385m with incentives added in.  And remember, that’s the average salary for the entire SAP workforce.

You would be entirely forgiven if you’ve never heard of the company. SAP UK is part a global software and tech support company, offering cloud data storage and corporate software solutions. The little known firm has its UK headquarters in Feltham, a suburban town two miles from Heathrow airport, not a million miles from London but a whole world away in terms of social cachet.  

Second in the top ten best paying companies in the UK is EMC, another technology firm you have probably never heard of.  It is based seven miles away in the London suburb of Brentford and its staff receive an average package of £86,500 (P1, 331m), including a basic wage of £70,000 (P1,077m).  EMC makes micro-hardware for the computer industry so it’s likely you use some of their products daily but you would never be aware that you do.

After those 2 on the Top 10 list comes McKinsey & Co. and the Boston Consulting Group, both investment consultancy firms, followed by Facebook, then Deutsche Bank and Nomura International (both global banking groups, the first German, the second Japanese),  then technology giant Cisco Systems, Google and French bank BNP Paribas.  That works out at half the UK’s top 10 high-paying jobs in IT and internet support and half for investment and banking.  

In some ways it’s hardly surprising.  No company today can operate without a robust IT system and the bigger the company, the greater the need and the more complex the networking, storage and sharing requirements.  SAP services hundreds of major clients all over the world and in a range of completely diverse categories from: Adidas and Asian Paints, The City of Cape Town, McLaren Cars, Dr. Pepper and the Dole food Company, Nashua, the National Bank of Canada and the New Zealand Department of Conservation to Vodafone and beyond. 

And if you offer service and support to the best, it goes without saying that you need the best in the industry to offer that service and support. In a mercenary world, the best incentive to attract the best in the business is still a pay cheque with many zeros.  A conducive working environment, flexible hours, generous holidays and other perks are all very well but the bottom line is still the top attraction.

Interestingly the list of highest UK earners was released in the same week as Microsoft announced its Windows 10 upgraded operating system has now been loaded onto 300 million devices.  That’s also a lot of zeros!  According to the software leviathan Windows 10 takes users to the next level in working and browsing.  According to Microsoft, their new operating system will run on the “broadest types of devices ever”.  It will come with Cortana in Edge, a personal assistant that helps make Web browsing easier for you, with whatever you're trying to get done and the personal assistant app will run on the desktop.

It merges various app stores into one platform, called the One Store.

It is bringing back the Start Menu, which was removed from Windows 8.

And users can create multiple desktops to keep things organised.

If that all sounds Greek to you, you could always call in a consultant from SAP to translate, but in essence it simply means that the new system is easier to navigate, more visual and more attractive than the previous version,  Windows 8.  That was such a flop that Microsoft decided to skip the number 9 and move straight to 10 to distance itself even further from the fail.  Right now the upgrade is being offered for free, though after July 29th it will cost users $119 (P1310) to purchase, so if you want it there’s no time like the present.

Summing all those statistics up, what it amounts to is that everyone needs IT software, hardware and support and the fastest-growing companies are those that offer those products and facilities and related technologies.  This is the burgeoning new must-be-in industry and whilst investment bankers and stockbrokers are never going to go broke, there’s some new kids on the block showing them that even if money doesn’t grow on trees, it can be found in the Clouds!

STUART WHITE is the Managing Director of HRMC

But this week some interesting facts emerged which show a shift in equilibrium.  


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Export Processing Zones: How to Get SEZA to Sizzle

23rd September 2020
Export Processing Zone (EPZ) factory in Kenya

In 2005, the Business & Economic Advisory Council (BEAC) pitched the idea of the establishment of Special Economic Zones (SEZs) to the Mogae Administration.

It took five years before the SEZ policy was formulated, another five years before the relevant law was enacted, and a full three years before the Special Economic Zones Authority (SEZA) became operational.

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Egypt Bagged Again

23rd September 2020

… courtesy of infiltration stratagem by Jehovah-Enlil’s clan

With the passing of Joshua’s generation, General Atiku, the promised peace and prosperity of a land flowing with milk and honey disappeared, giving way to chaos and confusion.

Maybe Joshua himself was to blame for this shambolic state of affairs. He had failed to mentor a successor in the manner Moses had mentored him. He had left the nation without a central government or a human head of state but as a confederacy of twelve independent tribes without any unifying force except their Anunnaki gods.

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23rd September 2020

If I say the word ‘robot’ to you,  I can guess what would immediately spring to mind –  a cute little Android or animal-like creature with human or pet animal characteristics and a ‘heart’, that is to say to say a battery, of gold, the sort we’ve all seen in various movies and  tv shows.  Think R2D2 or 3CPO in Star Wars, Wall-E in the movie of the same name,  Sonny in I Robot, loveable rogue Bender in Futurama,  Johnny 5 in Short Circuit…

Of course there are the evil ones too, the sort that want to rise up and eliminate us  inferior humans – Roy Batty in Blade Runner, Schwarzenegger’s T-800 in The Terminator,  Box in Logan’s Run,  Police robots in Elysium and  Otomo in Robocop.

And that’s to name but a few.  As a general rule of thumb, the closer the robot is to human form, the more dangerous it is and of course the ultimate threat in any Sci-Fi movie is that the robots will turn the tables and become the masters, not the mechanical slaves.  And whilst we are in reality a long way from robotic domination, there are an increasing number of examples of  robotics in the workplace.

ROBOT BLOODHOUNDS Sometimes by the time that one of us smells something the damage has already begun – the smell of burning rubber or even worse, the smell of deadly gas. Thank goodness for a robot capable of quickly detecting and analyzing a smell from our very own footprint.

A*Library Bot The A*Star (Singapore) developed library bot which when books are equipped with RFID location chips, can scan shelves quickly seeking out-of-place titles.  It manoeuvres with ease around corners, enhances the sorting and searching of books, and can self-navigate the library facility during non-open hours.

DRUG-COMPOUNDING ROBOT Automated medicine distribution system, connected to the hospital prescription system. It’s goal? To manipulate a large variety of objects (i.e.: drug vials, syringes, and IV bags) normally used in the manual process of drugs compounding to facilitate stronger standardisation, create higher levels of patient safety, and lower the risk of hospital staff exposed to toxic substances.

AUTOMOTIVE INDUSTRY ROBOTS Applications include screw-driving, assembling, painting, trimming/cutting, pouring hazardous substances, labelling, welding, handling, quality control applications as well as tasks that require extreme precision,

AGRICULTURAL ROBOTS Ecrobotix, a Swiss technology firm has a solar-controlled ‘bot that not only can identify weeds but thereafter can treat them. Naio Technologies based in southwestern France has developed a robot with the ability to weed, hoe, and assist during harvesting. Energid Technologies has developed a citrus picking system that retrieves one piece of fruit every 2-3 seconds and Spain-based Agrobot has taken the treachery out of strawberry picking. Meanwhile, Blue River Technology has developed the LettuceBot2 that attaches itself to a tractor to thin out lettuce fields as well as prevent herbicide-resistant weeds. And that’s only scratching the finely-tilled soil.

INDUSTRIAL FLOOR SCRUBBERS The Global Automatic Floor Scrubber Machine boasts a 1.6HP motor that offers 113″ water lift, 180 RPM and a coverage rate of 17,000 sq. ft. per hour

These examples all come from the aptly-named site    because while these functions are labour-saving and ripe for automation, the increasing use of artificial intelligence in the workplace will undoubtedly lead to increasing reliance on machines and a resulting swathe of human redundancies in a broad spectrum of industries and services.

This process has been greatly boosted by the global pandemic due to a combination of a workforce on furlough, whether by decree or by choice, and the obvious advantages of using virus-free machines – I don’t think computer viruses count!  For example, it was suggested recently that their use might have a beneficial effect in care homes for the elderly, solving short staffing issues and cheering up the old folks with the novelty of having their tea, coffee and medicines delivered by glorified model cars.  It’s a theory, at any rate.

Already, customers at the South-Korean  fast-food chain No Brand Burger can avoid any interaction with a human server during the pandemic.  The chain is using robots to take orders, prepare food and bring meals out to diners.  Customers order and pay via touchscreen, then their request is sent to the kitchen where a cooking machine heats up the buns and patties. When it’s ready, a robot ‘waiter’ brings out their takeout bag.   

‘This is the first time I’ve actually seen such robots, so they are really amazing and fun,’ Shin Hyun Soo, an office worker at No Brand in Seoul for the first time, told the AP. 

Human workers add toppings to the burgers and wrap them up in takeout bags before passing them over to yellow-and-black serving robots, which have been compared to Minions. 

Also in Korea, the Italian restaurant chain Mad for Garlic is using serving robots even for sit-down customers. Using 3D space mapping and other technology, the electronic ‘waiter,’ known as Aglio Kim, navigates between tables with up to five orders.  Mad for Garlic manager Lee Young-ho said kids especially like the robots, which can carry up to 66lbs in their trays.

These catering robots look nothing like their human counterparts – in fact they are nothing more than glorified food trolleys so using our thumb rule from the movies, mankind is safe from imminent takeover but clearly  Korean hospitality sector workers’ jobs are not.

And right there is the dichotomy – replacement by stealth.  Remote-controlled robotic waiters and waitresses don’t need to be paid, they don’t go on strike and they don’t spread disease so it’s a sure bet their army is already on the march.

But there may be more redundancies on the way as well.  Have you noticed how AI designers have an inability to use words of more than one syllable?  So ‘robot’ has become ‘bot’ and ‘android’ simply ‘droid?  Well, guys, if you continue to build machines ultimately smarter than yourselves you ‘rons  may find yourself surplus to requirements too – that’s ‘moron’ to us polysyllabic humans”!

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