Workplace Robotics: Augment and Automate
Updated: 2 days ago
With substantial investments and acquisitions happening at a rapid-fire pace, supply chain and manufacturing/logistics robotics technologies and companies have confirmed "this is the way." The widespread adoption of a variety of industrial robots has set the table for a broader robotics expansion into the workplace: any space where people do work.
Workplace robots - from cleaning to security monitoring to retail kiosk to facilities management to collaboration (and more) - are moving toward an inflection point in market creation, acceptance, and demand.
What are workplace robots, and how do they work?
Beyond industrial transport, warehouse ops, and assembly, how can robots add value?
How can workplace robots deliver on ROI and help solve for the challenges like staffing shortages?
Workplace robots are designed and built to work with and for people. They can perform jobs and tasks like industrial robots, but the how, where, and for whom are more nuanced. There's a big difference between having a robot on an assembly line and having a robot moving throughout an office common area, down a hallway, into the cafe, or joining a meeting.
Robots offer a new avenue to put people in better control of workplace agility and preferences, which support broader business goals, including:
Reducing work travel expenses and enabling hybrid work
Prioritizing staff resources
Expanding sales and marketing reach
Improving overall operations and safety within a variety of buildings and facilities
Addressing instabilities in staffing is going to be a longer term challenge, we asll as a key driver for workplace robots.
Robots that provide flexibility, mobility, and solve problems, without adding complexity, hit top and bottom lines.
In terms of ROI, businesses have success introducing and integrating workplace robotics when they understand and socialize both cultural and operational benefits. Robots that provide flexibility, mobility, and solve problems, without adding complexity, hit top and bottom lines.
Workplace Robotics Partnerships
The acceleration in robotics company acquisitions shows that some companies are looking to add these capabilities in-house, as part of their brand identity and value proposition. Additionally, there has been a growing number of partnerships that also promote acceptance and credibility for robots in the workplace, and demonstrate use cases that drive ROI.
Industry giants often look to strategic partnerships to drive innovation and technology leadership. They are also forming partnerships with robotics companies in order to introduce and scale workplace robotics within certain verticals, their own customer base, as well as the larger market to show their ability to future-proof.
Integration = Innovation
There aren’t many companies looking to wipe the slate clean and start anew when it comes to workplace tech. Especially not after the rushed evolution of the last two years. Businesses want new solutions that build upon what they already have.
Experimental projects and gadgetry will largely be pigeon-holed to specific R&D efforts that aren’t looking to scale into solutions. When it comes to business transformation, technology leaders will turn to iteration and optimization of existing capabilities with integrated devices and tools. In other words: the wheel exists, no one wants to reinvent it.
The (Near) Future of Facilities Management and Smart Buildings Includes Robots
Applying robotics technology within a physical workplace can improve productivity and experience, while also maximizing staff and facility resources. Not to mention the jet power behind sustainability and Net-0 initiatives.
Robots can assume tasks and responsibilities around security patrols, on-call technical support, front desk/concierge services, and facility monitoring. But they can also serve as data aggregators, disinfection solutions, and environmental reporters, giving readings on air quality, temperature, humidity, etc. Mobile, autonomous, and hands-free, workplace robots can be safely customized to suit facility needs, even in more extreme settings like healthcare, labs, and clean rooms.
Check out the Tyco Security Robot powered by Ava Robotics
Augmentation & Automation
The current, global staffing issue demands a new means for businesses to fill gaps, and several different technologies are working to help solve for missing people pieces. So whether it's augmenting more limited staff with robots to perform routine tasks, or automating a process formerly executed by human workers, robots are stepping IN to the workplace, not ON human toes.
In the case of telepresence robots, their role is 100% augmentation. You can't use a telepresence robot without a person accessing it. In contrast, cleaning robots like UV Disinfection robots, work solo, during off-hours, to disinfect air and surfaces without people around. Security robots can monitor and patrol, with or without people around, and report risks/incidents for the staff to address in real-time.
Identifying the Use Case, Adopting the Tech
Successful workplace robot deployments tend to follow a format:
Identify the problem to solve with robotic augmentation/automation
Define the use case for the robot(s)
Communicate the use case and educate internal/external people about the robot
Connect the robot(s) to one or more broader business goal (e.g. sales reach, internal collaboration/access, innovation, sustainability, etc.)
Adoption and acceptance of workplace robots is unique to each business. Some may have to overcome hesitation and field a lot of questions, while others may have experience more widespread comfort and enthusiasm for the new additions to their workspaces.
Workplace robots are NOT designed with the intent to steal jobs or preside over workers as overlords. "The robots are coming," is a fearful statement often made in partial jest. But the reality is that they're actually already here, helping people work smarter and improving the quality of work-life around the world.