Why it’s time to give robotics the attention it deserves

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The robotic revolution is no longer just a vision of the future. Businesses of all sizes and across all industries are already enjoying the benefits of automation. Reduced labour costs and an increase in productivity are just some of the ways which robotics are helping organisations stay ahead of the competition.   

The UK has always been a leader in innovation, championing new inventions and being at the forefront of emerging trends. However, the UK is dropping behind its friends across the pond when it comes to prioritising robotics. In fact, findings from Sapio Research show that only 19 per cent of UK businesses rank the technology as a ‘top priority’, compared to over 30 per cent of businesses in the U.S. 

With the level of automation continuing to increase across businesses, those organisations that are not putting robotics at the top of their overall business strategy will struggle to survive and thrive in the digital age.   

Getting the priorities right 

The Robotic Process Automation (RPA) market was valued at over 600 million in the U.S. last year and is predicted to grow by over 20 per cent between now and 2024. Businesses in the U.S. have a clear understanding of the ways in which robotics and automation can bring important changes to the way businesses operate - increasing efficiency across the board.   Despite an overall increase in businesses who are making robotics ‘more of a priority’ this year, research has shown that only 64 per cent of organisations in the UK see Robotic Process Automation (RPA) as important to their wider IT strategy. This is compared to over three quarters of U.S. businesses who view this technology as a necessary part of their wider business plan.   

If implemented correctly, RPA can have a huge amount of potential in every industry. For example, in financial services robotics can carry out tasks such as credit card application processing - exactly as a person would but through automated processes in place of human logic.   

Convincing those at the top 

According to PWC’s 2017 Global Digital IQ Survey 68 per cent of executives surveyed stated that their CEO was a champion for digital. This was compared to the 33 per cent of executives who were surveyed in 2007. Today those in senior positions must take the lead in the robotic revolution and introduce a culture that not only understands automated technology, but openly accepts it as necessary to carry out business functions.   

Without buy-in from those in senior positions the success of automation within a business will be stilted. In fact, buy-in from across the business is needed for full engagement in this time of digital change, every employee needs to understand how robotics can help them in their role and day to day tasks. 

With recent news reporting that a third of jobs are to be automated by 2030, a common concern for the human workforce is that the robots are coming to steal their jobs. However, robots shouldn’t pose a threat to the jobs that people are already doing but should be there to assist them with these tasks. With effective leadership, attitudes towards automation can be shifted. Rather than seeing automation as a threat, the workforce can embrace automation as a technology that can add to and improve their working life.   

This increased level of automation demands a change in the way business leaders view different job roles. Automation is impacting the way we work and instead of simply swapping humans for robots, the C-suite needs to put in place a strategy that allows them to stay profitable. As back-office, mundane tasks become automated; people can be focused on the high-level strategic activities that require empathy and communication - bringing real value to the business and helping achieve business targets.    

There’s still a lot to be done to educate those at management level as to the benefits of software robotics. But if business leaders can help their employees truly get to grips with how this technology will support them, employees and organisations alike will be able to flourish in the world of digital. 

Robotising the digital transformation 

Undoubtedly, robotics have a key role to play if businesses are going to be successful in their digital transformation journey. Research has revealed that over two thirds of organisations have a Robotics Process Automation strategy in place, with 82 per cent using RPA to automate business processes. If implemented correctly robotics can drive business growth and help businesses achieve their goals. From the manufacturing floor to the back office, robotics can provide significant value across all areas of a business. Robots can be employed to carry out the repetitive, mundane tasks which people often resent. Not only does this increase productivity, as the number of employees that carry out manual tasks is reduced; but it also means that the human work force can focus on personalised, more strategic tasks.   

For those 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.    

Looking to the future 

Staying at the forefront of innovation will require businesses across the UK to start putting robotics at the top of their business agenda. Making robotics a priority will inevitably come from those in senior positions but if the technology is to truly benefit the organisation as a whole, employees need to fully comprehend the power of robotics too. 

Whether we like it or not the robots are here. Those businesses that survive will be those who take the time to fully understand how to apply the technology correctly. It is time that businesses move with the times and put robotics at the top of their to-do list.   

Neil Kinson, Chief of Staff at Redwood 

Image Credit: Tatiana Shepeleva / Shutterstock