The future is already here in Japan. Unique demographics, coupled with a long history of innovation in automation, have put the country ahead of the curve on digital labor. Today Japan is well positioned to integrate automation into its workforce – and not a moment too soon.
Two seismic forces have converged:
Companies in Japan are making a point of getting their workers comfortable with digital labor. Part of the task is made easier by sheer familiarity: Japan has the most industrial robots of any country, with an estimated 309,400.1 Only South Korea has a higher ratio of robots to humans.2
Now the scope of robotic application is rapidly moving from the automation of simple and routine processes, to the automation of less routine processes, to – in just the next few years – highly cognitive automation, where robots will imitate humans in making decisions and processing complex tasks.
As this progression occurs, Japanese companies are asking us to advise them on:
Japan’s prowess in robot technology stretches back to the 1950s, when the country made innovation in automated assembly lines a cornerstone of its competitive strategy.
Though the challenges in Japan today are significantly different from those facing other economies, the country can potentially do what it did more than a half-century ago: use its experience with robotics to help educate and lead other countries. From that perspective, advances in digital labor couldn’t be happening at a more auspicious time.
1World Robotics Organization, 2013.
2International Federation of Robotics, Feb. 28, 2013.
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