In today’s rapidly evolving technological landscape, robots are becoming increasingly prevalent in the workplace. No longer confined to cages and robotic work cells, robots are now designed to work alongside human workers, moving amongst them and even being worn by them [^1^]. The growing popularity of robots can be attributed to the numerous advantages they offer, including increased productivity, efficiency, and safety. However, organizations may still have concerns about the investment required to adopt robotic solutions. In this article, we will explore the business case for investing in robots in the workplace, considering both the total cost of ownership (TCO) and the expected return on investment (ROI) [^1^].
The Cost of Robot Labor
One of the biggest ongoing expenses for any business is labor costs. With budget cuts and labor shortages, hiring new workers has become increasingly difficult. This is where robots can provide a powerful complement to the existing workforce, filling the gap created by labor shortages and driving cost-saving efficiencies. While there is an initial investment required for purchasing a robotic solution, the ongoing operating expenses, such as routine maintenance and upkeep, are much lower compared to adding headcount [^1^].
By introducing robots into the workplace, organizations can improve labor process efficiency, allowing their existing workforce to focus on higher-value activities. For example, automating repetitive tasks like vacuuming can free up cleaning teams to spend more time on higher-value services such as disinfecting, deep cleaning, and polishing. This increase in efficiency can prevent overtime costs and achieve the same results [^1^].
Impact on Employee Hiring and Onboarding Costs
In addition to reducing the costs of finding and adding new employees, robots can also help organizations retain their existing workforce and reduce hiring and onboarding costs. Replacing an employee can cost one-half to two times that employee’s annual salary, and industries like cleaning often have high turnover rates. By introducing robots into the workplace, organizations can reduce the monotony and strain of repetitive tasks, providing new opportunities for employees to grow their skills and develop professionally. This engagement and rewarding work can help retain talented workers, making them more productive in the long run [^1^].
Impact on Customer Retention Costs
Apart from enhancing the employee experience, robots in the workplace can also have significant advantages when it comes to customer retention. Industries like retail and hospitality can benefit greatly from robotic investments. For example, research has shown that cleanliness plays a crucial role in customer satisfaction and retention. A lack of cleanliness can drive customers away, while above-average cleanliness can lead to greater loyalty. By automating tasks like vacuuming and utilizing robotic tools, organizations can create a clean and welcoming environment that promotes customer satisfaction and drives repeat visits [^1^].
The Cost of Maintaining Robots
While robots do require routine maintenance, the ongoing expenses associated with their upkeep are relatively minor. For example, the maintenance of autonomous robot vacuums often involves tasks like replacing filters and dust containment bags. Additionally, the initial cost of purchasing a cleaning robot can be amortized over its lifetime, leading to cost savings in the long run. These savings can be reinvested or help offset rising labor rates for cleaning staff. However, to fully reap the benefits of robots in the workplace, organizations need to develop a comprehensive strategy that leverages their investment more widely [^1^].
The Shifting Economics of Global Manufacturing
According to experts, the use of robotics in industry is nearing a tipping point that could result in significant productivity gains in the future ^2^ CNBC.. In certain industries, it is now economically more viable to use robots than human labor due to factors like rising labor costs and advancements in robotic technology. Boston Consulting Group (BCG) estimates that the adoption of advanced robots could increase productivity by up to 30% in many industries and lower total labor costs by 18% or more in major exporting countries ^2^ CNBC..
Evolving Robotics Technology
Robots have come a long way from the large, heavy, and expensive machines used in the past. Today, there are more sophisticated robots capable of carrying out a wide range of tasks. For example, Baxter, a collaborative robot launched by Rethink Robotics, works alongside humans on factory floors, performing repetitive tasks. This type of robot is being used by various firms across North America ^2^ CNBC..
The Changing Landscape of Manufacturing
The use of automation, including robotics, is transforming the manufacturing sector. Historically, companies outsourced production to countries with lower labor costs, such as China. However, as labor costs rise globally, including in countries like China, the cost-effectiveness of outsourcing becomes uncertain. By adopting automation, countries with rising labor costs can remain competitive and continue to produce affordable goods for their customers ^2^ CNBC..
Impact on Productivity and Cost-Effectiveness
The use of robots as assistants to factory workers has proven to increase productivity. By automating repetitive tasks, robots allow human workers to focus on more creative and efficient ways of manufacturing. This not only improves productivity but also reduces costs. In fact, in the automotive industry, producing items with robots is already more cost-effective than using human labor. BCG predicts that this cost-effective crossover point will occur in the U.S. electronics sector in 2018 and in the furniture industry around 2023 ^2^ CNBC..
Future Implications of Robotics in Manufacturing
The growing use of robotics in manufacturing will likely lead to changes in the industry’s landscape. Smaller factories, where goods can be produced quickly and on a smaller scale, are expected to become more prevalent. Additionally, the ability to manufacture tailor-made goods may become easier in these smaller factories. For example, sportswear maker Adidas is experimenting with automated production units that would allow them to shift manufacturing closer to shoppers and even produce personalized goods in their stores ^2^ CNBC..
The growing popularity and cost-effectiveness of robotics in the workplace are transforming industries and leading to significant productivity gains. By adopting robotic solutions, organizations can fill labor gaps, improve efficiency, reduce hiring and onboarding costs, enhance customer retention, and achieve cost savings in the long run. As technology continues to advance, the economics of utilizing robots in various industries will become increasingly favorable. With a comprehensive strategy and the right implementation, organizations can leverage the benefits of robotics to stay competitive and drive success in the evolving business landscape ^1^ CNBC..
[^1^]: National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH). (n.d.). The Business Case for Investing in Robots in the Workplace. Retrieved from https://www.cobottrends.com/the-business-case-for-investing-in-robots-in-the-workplace/ https://www.cobottrends.com/the-business-case-for-investing-in-robots-in-the-workplace/