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Technology and humans can be complementary, not competitive, says SATS CEO

Eustance Huang
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Advancements in the field of robotics have driven fears across the globe that many jobs could soon be displaced by machines.

But that does not always have to be the case, according to Alex Hungate, president and CEO of airport ground-handler and catering solutions provider SATS.

The company, which operates in 50 locations across 14 countries, has made large inroads in technological investments under Hungate's leadership. The investments seem to have paid off, with SATS reporting an increase in overall productivity across its business units while keeping labor costs in check.

Speaking with CNBC's "Capital Connection" on Tuesday, Hungate said that robotics and automation technology implementations in companies often stumble due to a failure to allay employees' fears: "At SATS, we're technology-driven but we're people-led, so we try to encourage people to come up with the ideas about how we use technology and we remove the threat that you referred to by stating very clearly that we don't intend to reduce their jobs."

"We intend to keep the same number of people over the long term and benefit from these growth trends," he added, emphasizing the importance of people-driven innovation at SATS.

The company is also betting big on e-commerce in Southeast Asia, opening the SATS e-commerce Airhub in Singapore's Changi Airport recently in a bid to rapidly increase capacity to meet rising demand in the region.

"E-commerce is one of the big stories of our age, you know, Southeast Asia is actually the fastest growing internet region in the world. E-commerce volumes (are) growing at about 30 percent per annum and (are) estimated to be $88 billion in value by 2025," Hungate said.

To stay ahead of the curve, the adoption of technology has become a necessity for the company.

"What we don't want is the top line increase to drop down, you know, to require hiring a lot more people so it doesn't drop to the bottom line," Hungate said. "By deploying capital in technology, in a high-tech facility like this, we're going from 500 mailbags per hour to 1,800 mail bags per hour today and then we have the ability to double that without hiring any people."

Looking ahead, Hungate said technology is likely to continue playing an important role for the company.