It is still not 2018, the year when the events of this popular film that premiered at the end of the ‘80s took place. Its main character, Robocop, had been created to preserve global peace in the not so distant future. But the robotics industry has made a lot of progress since then, so much so that it is now possible to appreciate its different applications in the management of small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs).
“Business owners often feel overwhelmed by the need to innovate products, but what they should actually be innovating with robotics are the business models to provide more services and reach as many customers as possible. Adopting these technologies is essential in order for companies to be sustainable and remain in the market,” says Sergio Sánchez Díaz, Spanish strategy specialist for SMEs in new environments, when consulted by ConnectAmericas.
Some consultants sustain that robots will enter the modern age with the same force as the steam engine in the preindustrial era. Nanotechnologies, artificial intelligence, drones and 3-D printers will change society in all of its dimensions, and particularly in the work environment.
The U.S. Bank of America Merrill Lynch estimates that the market value of robotics will reach 142 billion Euros by 2020; it is currently at 32 billion. E-commerce giants like Alibaba, Google and eBay are already kick-starting these business models. In Amazon warehouses, for instance, there are thousands of anonymous workers: Kiva are small orange robots that are going around the shelves picking up products and taking them to the workers, who are then in charge of packing them.
Robots are being used by SMEs as a new tool to optimize production. As with all new technology-adoption curves, the industry is lowering its prices and suiting the needs of small enterprises. It is still expensive but it will gradually be accessible to the bulk of the business world.
Sánchez Díaz considers that SMEs with some type of manufacturing process, i.e., those that transform raw materials into products, will be the first to introduce robots. Those operating with tools, for example, can generate change and new products faster and cheaper than today.
Robots will then couple with logistics processes to reach clients faster; and this is how sales increase. “The key to robotics in business management is foreseeing what lies ahead, we are shifting from a consulting society to another where clients already have the information and it is essential to plan predictive sales ahead,” adds the Spanish specialist.
The human factor
New jobs will be created thanks to technological innovation. The most sought after professions in the future will be computer programming, marketing and communications, visual design, digital creativity and business strategy and management related jobs, according to a study on Future Jobs conducted by the consulting firm Adecco.
“The human factor is still essential in designing a product and in knowing what to do with the machines. We already have robotics adapting to SMEs, but it is important for those using them to be creative,” argues Sánchez Díaz.
The field were atomization is expected to advance the most in the coming years is in the services area, especially in jobs implying repetitive tasks such as telephone operators, supermarket cashiers, administrative jobs and all jobs relating to transportation and logistics.