It’s not technology that is the greatest current challenge in the adoption of robotics. Rather, realistic assessments, decisive implementations and future-proof organisations are the challenges to be overcome. Here’s our brief guide to avoiding the major pitfalls.
Interest in robotics is increasing, however there’s significant chaff among the proverbial wheat. In a sense, robotics is a victim of its own success. In order to make the right decisions and use robotics successfully, a solid plan and preliminary research are essential. Especially in the case of outsourcing to a service provider where robotics is partly driven by the service provider. Therefore it is vital for user organisations to avoid the biggest pitfalls by applying prevailing good practices and asking the most pertinent questions. We’ve summarised a number of dos and don’ts below.
Avoid partial solutions and go for the full picture
Robotics isn’t a miracle cure that will remedy processes that aren’t performing at the desired level. If you’re trying to use robotics based on this assumption, you will be disappointed. Always start with a complete picture of what you want to achieve, prioritising an integral approach and taking the entire landscape into consideration. Not having clear process descriptions and a clear control mechanism from the start will also typically lead to disappointing results.
Someone else will often be able to do it better
Embarking on a new challenge is indeed exciting, but can be costly and disappointing in the case of robotics. The right skillset and training are required to use robotics tools, and these are unlikely to be available within your organisation. You need to trust in the expertise of a specialist partner and establish the optimal balance between doing it yourself and using your partner’s expertise. In the case of outsourcing activities, service providers have developed a good knowledge of robotics and are developing their skillsets and understanding rapidly. However, throughout the process, you’ll need to ensure that you consistently challenge your partner to really reap the benefits of robotics and ensure that both parties’ focus remains on the end result rather than the tools.
Focusing on cost efficiency is likely to be expensive
Cost optimisation is typically the primary driver in the adoption of robotics, although it definitely shouldn’t be the only factor considered when assessing an implementation. The total cost of ownership and the feasibility of your goals need to be considered. You’ll also need to consider the total costs of implementation, of operation and of acquiring the knowledge you need. And don’t forget to qualify the cost savings you’re targeting and determine clear KPIs with your service provider/partner: for example, what’s the composition of the ‘paper’ FTE (full-time equivalent) saving from the business case? Because a saving of five FTEs is not the same as fifty times 0.1 FTEs.
Look at the means, people and methods
Don’t underestimate the investment required in the human component. Dealing with new processes resulting from robotics will require a transformation in the skills and knowledge of employees. This transformation also needs to be considered in your robotics decision-making. In our experience, integral process improvements and cost reductions are best achieved by simplifying the process, whether or not combined with outsourcing, process redesign or personnel reductions.
The person who takes on board the above advice and warnings can gain a significant advantage. Real strides are being made in terms of the technology, such that the technology itself is no longer the major challenge. The real difference is being made through careful implementations, the establishment of future-focused operational processes and solid organisational change. If your organisation is to be truly successful in its use of robotics, you need to develop a complete picture of what you really want to achieve, use the knowledge and expertise of specialist partners and maximise your organisation’s learning ability. And above all: you need to keep the focus on the strategic objective and not the tool that is robotics.
In KPMG’s series ‘The Very Best of Sourcing’ we aim to take a look at the best that sourcing has to offer from the perspective of four different themes: organisation structure, the innovation ecosystem, robotics and customer experience.