Opinion

Demand for robotics: The robots just want to be loved too

8 min read

21 December 2017

It’s not all doom and gloom. This demand for robotics is in fact an enabler, and will assist people in the tasks that they are already carrying out – the UK needs to realise this.

There are clearly a number of avid Terminator fans among business leaders, as the demand for robotics has increased dramatically over the past few years.

In this case we aren’t referring to Arnie-inspired bots, but a catalogue of software automation machines, which have already brought a number of benefits to business operations across the globe. 

While this demand for robotics is only set to continue –  the market is forecast to grow by 20 per cent over the next seven years – to fully capitalise on the opportunities that the tech can bring, organisations need to understand which areas of their business this technology can be applied to, and where manual effort can be alleviated.

 It seems however, that the UK is lagging behind its friends across the pond when it comes to demand for robotics and putting it at the top of the priority list. In fact, recent research has revealed that just 19 per cent of organisations in the UK consider robotics to be a top priority for their business.

Inventive? Really?

Historically the UK has revelled in its ability to come up with some of the world’s most pioneering inventions and be at the forefront of emerging technological trends. The lightbulb, the jet engine and the World Wide Web are just some of the leading edge innovations the UK can take credit for.

The same however, cannot be said of our demand for robotics. Research has shown that only 64 per cent of organisations in the UK see Robotic Process Automation (RPA) as important to their overall IT strategy. This is compared to three quarters of organisations in the US.

If used properly, a demand for robotics can bring a number of advantages to the way businesses operate. From improving efficiency to streamlining operations, there is no industry that would not benefit from the implementation of automated technology.

In healthcare, for example, software robots can be used in place of human workers to register patients. The technology is easily programmed to follow simple rules and copy the way that humans would use applications, without having to allocate a member of staff to the mundane task.

Nothing can replace us

A growing belief is that the rise of the robots will signal the end for the human workforce as we know it. Within just the next ten years it has been predicted that four million jobs in the UK’s private sector will be carried out by robots.

But it’s not all doom and gloom. This demand for robotics is in fact an enabler, and will assist people in the tasks that they are already carrying out. Similarly as the mundane and back-office tasks become automated, people can focus on the tasks that bring real value to the business.

Business leaders need to rethink the way that they view different job roles. By doing the activities that require empathy and understanding, people can help organisations grow and achieve their wider business targets.

A shift in attitude is needed if robots and people are to work successfully together. With effective leadership, the workforce can embrace automation and accept it as a technology that can improve, rather than threaten their job.

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Leading the change

Senior business leaders have made significant progress in their journey in making their organisation digital, with research from KPMG revealing that the proportion of organisations with an enterprise-wide strategy has risen by 52 per cent in just three years.

The finish line is in sight but businesses still have a way to go in fully realising the benefits of automated technology.

Demand for robotics and buy-in from those in senior positions is critical if this technology is to succeed. Actually, engagement with this technology is not limited to those in a position of responsibility, the whole business must be fully committed to demand for robotics if it is to have a positive impact.

Each and every employee must be aware of how robotics can help them in their individual role and the business as a whole. The next step for business leaders is to introduce a culture where automated technology is not only understood, but accepted as necessary to the proper functioning of the wider business.

Clearly there is still more that can be done to educate those at senior levels of the advantages that robotic technology can bring to their business. However, if business leaders can truly convince their employees of the ways in which automated technology can assist, then organisations will be able to gain an edge over their competitors.

A helping hand

So the C-suite is on board, the employees are convinced, what’s next? Businesses need to ensure that they implement robotic technology properly and apply it to the areas where it will really make a difference.

For businesses looking to scale up, investing in robotics can be a big step in the right direction. Automated systems embody standardisation and control which brings flexibility to the tasks they can carry out

Rather than just mimicking the actions of humans in activities, smart software robots can be programmed to handle each step of a wider process. The robots can then acclimatise quickly to the situation in hand, and carry out each step of the end-to-end processes.

For businesses not looking to scale up but merely improve their business operations, robotic technology can be used to carry out the behind the scenes, repetitive tasks that people often resent. This leads to increased productivity, as the number of employees that carry out manual tasks is reduced and their time is freed up to focus on adding real value to the business.

The robots are already proving a huge help – with 82 per cent of organisations using Robotic Process Automation to automate their business processes. But if every business was to put robots at the top of their priority list – failure would not be an option.

Neil Kinson is chief of staff at Redwood Software