In sectors such as manufacturing, the opportunities for greater robotics use are becoming more numerous and value-packed by the day. This means more than just placing an order for new robotic equipment, however. Changing operational needs will necessitate changes to both leadership structures and everyday procedures.
The pressure is on for businesses to find executives and leadership team members who understand the ins and outs of robotics adoption. Greater automation is one of the technological priorities set to define the future of multiple industries, which means organizations that can't adapt may be left behind by their competitors.
Collaborative robots: Unique needs and possibilities
When manufacturing leaders ponder a move into greater automation, they may picture fully autonomous factory floors. There is a significant market for smaller robots, however. These collaborative robots are meant to help human employees instead of operating on their own and, as Chief Executive magazine pointed out, companies can buy these helpful tools at prices starting around $30,000.
Chief Executive explained that actually buying a robot is the easy part when it comes to extracting positive value. It will take leadership and direction to make these robots useful and effective. Some of the principles behind great robotics use are familiar from other kinds of leadership. For instance, Robotiq CEO Samuel Bouchard stated that leaders should be focused on the end results they want to get from their robot-assisted teams. Rather than buying a robot just to have it, managers should be envisioning the exact way the automated tool will make it easier to create products.
Additionally, companies should consider their employees first when adding robots to a workflow. Keeping employees safe is an essential part of creating new processes. Workers' should also be consulted to determine the best ways to use robots. Collaborative robots are used to extend the capabilities of one or more employees, so leaders should work with those professionals to ensure the new technology will help.
Staffing needs during robot adoption
A company using more robotics can send the wrong message to employees – it can appear to workers that a rise in automation will mean layoffs for humans. Matthew Scherer, Natalie Pierce and Garry Mathiason of Littler's Robotics, AI & Automation Practice Group wrote for Robotics Business Review that leaders should stay on top of robotics' possibilities to keep from running into staffing problems. For instance, robotics deployment may demand employees take on new and different roles than they fulfilled in the past. Great managers will anticipate the changes and retrain workers proactively.
Furthermore, leadership teams should be open and honest about what robots will be used for. When executives are secretive or simply uncommunicative regarding automation, it's natural for workers to fear the worst. As with any major change in a business's plans, there is comfort to be found in having a feeling of ownership. Employees who feel like they're part of the firm's evolution won't be as fearful that the company will leave them behind.
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