Sri Lankan tea industry has been cherishing through a long history running back to the early 1867 and celebrated its sesquicentennial celebrations in 2017. The annual tea production recorded 307 million kilograms of made tea in 2017 which is a 5.14 % increase compared to 2016, whilst the exports recorded 288 million kilograms of the annual tea production in 2017 (Growth Beyond Measure, 2018).
In the context of the Sri Lankan economy, the tea industry can be considered as one of the largest benefactors to the national Gross Domestic Product (GDP), accounting approximately 1% annually (Economics and Social Statistics of Sri Lanka, 2018).
When considering the annual tea production, 25-30% is produced by the regional plantation companies (RPCs) whilst the rest of the production is accounted by private factories. Sri Lanka has registered 26 regional plantation companies, however only 20 regional plantation companies in Sri Lanka are currently involved in actively producing tea.
World Crop Statistics in (m/Kgs)
Month-Dec To-date Difference +/-
2015 2016 2017 2015 2016 2017 2015 vs 2016 2016 vs 2017
Sri Lanka 23.6 27.1 23.5 328.7 292.5 307.7 (36.2) 15.2
Bangladesh 4.8 5.2 6.07 66.5 79.39 73.74 12.89 (5.65)
North India 42.7 48.2 53.8 981.1 1054.5 1046.4 73.4 (8.1)
South India 14.6 15.8 16.2 227.6 212.9 232.4 (14.7) 19.5
Kenya 46.4 45.1 47.5 399.2 473 439.9 73.8 (33.1)
Malawi – 5.6 5.7 – 43.1 45.6 – 2.5
Figure 1 – World Crop Statistics in (m/Kgs).
Source- Forbes & Walker Research.
Figure 2 – World Crop todate in (m/Kgs).
Figure 3 – Sri Lanka Tea Exports 2010-2017 (m/Kgs).
Figure 4 – Sri Lanka Tea Export Earnings 2010-2017 (Bil/Rs).
1.2 RESEARCH PROBLEM
In a highly competitive agricultural industry which the country has been depending highly on its presence since the mid-1867, Kelani Valley Plantations PLC has invested highly on automating the processes which are mainly taken place in the tea fields and in the factories, which in general involves a very high level of manual labor and man power for their daily tea manufacturing process.
In order to maximize the company performance amongst other tea plantation companies in Sri Lanka, the top management of Kelani Valley Plantations PLC has introduced automation to the ground level employees to make work easy and productive to uphold the satisfaction of the employees.
With high levels of threat, from the labor authorities in the country for wages, the company wishes to evaluate the benefits and the impact of automation on employee satisfaction that has been taken place in the plantation due to the implementation of new methods to the tea manufacturing process which starts at the ground level of the tea fields.
Taking consideration of the investment and external influences, the top management of Kelani Valley Plantations PLC along with estate managers are working closely to evaluate the return on investment and the actual impact of automation on employee satisfaction in the company.
1.3 RESEARCH QUESTION
In finding a conclusion to the above said business opportunity the author has developed few research questions based on the study.
What is the impact of automation on employee satisfaction?
Irrespective of what the industry is, maximizing the working output is the key priority of any organization. However, that could involve a price factor. Considering the fact that stretching the work hours of an employee by an hour could easily make an him or her more productive. Even though this is theoretically accurate, there could have contradictive effects on the employees as well.
Does the way automation is implemented have an impact on employee satisfaction?
Its a proven fact that automation is required to profoundly affect an employees efficiency and productivity. Be that as it may, as top managers of an organization ponder a lot about investing resources into automation and other advanced frameworks, uncertainty involves the issue of social receptivity.
1.4 RESEARCH AIM AND OBJECTIVES.
The aim of the research was to identify and investigate the correlation between automation and employee satisfaction. This study also aimed at looking, how implementing automation impact employee satisfaction in tea estate staff (manual grades) in the tea plantations sector in Sri Lanka, whilst focusing on Kelani Valley Plantations PLC. The findings of the research will be used to evaluate the possible opportunities and benefits which automation have on employee satisfaction.
To understand and analyze the correlation of automation have on employee satisfaction from an academic background in relation to existing literature.
To evaluate key aspects of automation that has the highest impact towards employee satisfaction on manual grade employees in the tea plantation sector.
To explore the impact of automation on employee satisfaction of tea estate staff (manual grades) at Kelani Valley Plantations PLC.
1.5 RESEARCH RATIONALE.
Over the years, the tea industry has been heavily relying on manual grade labor. However, since the beginning of the industry, the workers have been practicing the traditional methods in fulfilling their responsibilities which may have caused inefficiencies, low productivity and lower employee satisfaction due to arduous work. One way to minimize the negative aspects of manual grade employees is to implement automation, which will indirectly increase productivity per worker. The attempt to increase the workers productivity by incorporating new technologies, has met tremendous success and are being implemented in the industry.
For the manual grade employees at KVPL, introducing machines such as shear harvesters, electronic weighing systems, motorized fertilizer application machines, etc., have help the employees carry out their tasks more easily, lessen their arduous task, increase their productivity and, consequently improve their earnings which has resulted in employee satisfaction.
Due to the implementation of automation in the financial year 2017/18, KVPL has been able to achieve higher production increase of 27.23% compared to 2016/17 despite unfavorable weather, the negative impact of the banning Glyphosate and other myriad challenges.
Figure 5 – Tea production at KVPL for 2015/2016/2017.
Source- Kelani Valley Plantations PLC Annual Reports 2016/17 & 2017/18
1.6 RESEARCH LIMITATIONS.
The author came across several limitations whilst working on this particular research study. Which have been noted below.
Even though the tea industry is one of the oldest industries in Sri Lanka, the availability of necessary research data and studies which have been done on automation and employee satisfaction is very limited.
There could be loopholes in the manual labor respondents category of the survey, as they possess very little educational background. As a result the survey could have a biased affect.