IDC's recent North American Commercial Service Robotics survey asked 600 non-manufacturing organizations what their top reasons are for deploying or planning to deploy commercial service robots in their operation. The top reason, among 17 choices, came back as improving productivity/efficiency with over 50% of respondents selecting this as a top reason they are using or considering service robots. Of course, there are many other reasons that companies are looking at robots as well, second on the list is improving product/service quality, and third is increasing operational capacity. Regardless of the reasons companies are looking at robots, the day has come where this technology is helping organizations achieve their strategic priorities.
This week, September 26 and 27 2018, I made a trip out to Santa Clara California to attend the RoboBusiness conference, and there was plenty of discussions about why companies are looking at robotics. Not-surprisingly, improving productivity and efficiency came up most frequently, both from the end users that I spoke with as well as the robotic vendors that I spent time with. I spent time leaders from Locus Robotics, Veo Robotics, Iam Robotics, ABB, Universal Robotics, Fetch Robotics and more. During the course of these conversations we talked about what it is that is driving customers to work with them and they all cited a desire to leverage modern robotic technology to improve productivity and efficiency in the business operation.
I wasn't just at the event and show floor, I also had the opportunity to moderate a panel discussion titled: "Defining What You Want to Solve and Securing Management Buy In" with panelists Bob Bollinger, Robotics Applied Innovation Leader at Proctor & Gamble, and Nick Akiona, Robotics Research Lead at Accenture Labs. A very interesting take away from the discussion is that when companies are looking to determine where to use robots, they should take a holistic view of the business processes and consider the impacts that change will have across the processes, not just the task that is targeted for automation. However, when asked what it is companies should target for improvements using robots, Bob mentioned that "cost improvement is important, but it is about much more and by improving other aspects, such as productivity and efficiency, cost reductions or revenue improvements will likely follow". Nick added that "flexibility and scalability are very important things our clients are looking for, we see modern robots enabling organizations the ability to better adapt to the complexities and changing nature of today's business environment".
The great thing about all of this today is that, while improving things like productivity and efficiency have consistently been top objectives of most companies, the rather recent emergence of the new breed of robotics is helping companies to achieve these improvement objectives at scale that far outpaces other improvement initiatives. The same North American Commercial Service Robotics survey found that over 75% of companies that have deployed service robotics in their operation achieved double digit improvements in productivity and over 72% achieved double digit improvements in efficiency. The point is, technology continues to evolve and enables businesses to drive improvements, and that robotic technology has matured to a point where the benefits cannot be ignored.
Just as with any innovative technology area, there will be early adopters, fast followers, and laggards. However, I don't believe it is wise to be a laggard this time around, as the value that the leaders are getting from robotics is helping to drive competitive advantage. This technology will quickly move from a nice to have to a must have for companies looking to be competitive in the coming years, so it is wise to start planning and craft a future business strategy that involves modern robotics.