In robotics, success is often measured in numbers.
Metrics surrounding productivity, speed, and ROI reign as the most valuable information a robotics company can demonstrate- and rightfully so. By design, robots are expected to improve upon all of the listed metrics and prove how automation can benefit the bottom line. But, can the soft benefits of robots prove just as valuable in sales conversations?
Most robotics professionals have likely already seen the plethora of articles highlighting how workers and the workplace are negatively affected by robots- rarely discussing the flip side of their benefits. However, all of the attention on the workforce and their spaces isn’t misplaced, as many potential adopters of automation are typically hesitant about the impacts robotics can have on their workers and company overall.
Sometimes, just discussing the benefits of robotics in numbers isn’t enough to overcome the emotion-based concerns. Many “soft” benefits of robotics are rarely discussed, yet can be found in everyday people-centered operations, and how the workplace itself is transformed by higher productivity and less dirty work.
Here are a few soft benefits robotics companies should add to the conversation when proving their hardware’s value.
Worker & workplace well-being
Let’s discuss the elephant in the room when it comes to robots: workers.
A study in 2023 found that nearly 6 out of 10 labor participants reported at least moderate burnout levels- spelling nothing but trouble for staffing across millions of companies.
Pre-automation day-to-day may have looked something like this: overworked employees doing dirty or dull jobs that take a toll on their bodies overtime, working long shifts that can exhaust or burn them out. The ensuing result can be a high rate of injury on the job and low morale that leads to a high turnover rate…and a high turnover equals a lot of money out of the company’s pocket. With automation at play, many workers no longer need to complete dangerous or otherwise undesirable tasks, and instead are able to either shift to another role or act as supervisors for robots to ensure they complete their missions.
Turnover rates can be calculated, yet a worker’s improvement in mental health and quality of life cannot, making worker well-being arguably one of the most important soft benefits of robotics. Rather than waking up with the knowledge they’ll be working a long shift of tasks that are hard on the body and potentially risky, they have the potential for an easier, and potentially much more fulfilling day, should they upskill as well. Take, for example, a landscaper who typically mows commercial properties and spends most of their day doing this monotonous task. Scythe Robotics, a company that sells autonomous commercial mowers, recently shared a testimony from their customer Turfscape; armed with the M.52 mower, their staff is able to spend more of their tending to other landscaping tasks and providing a larger value to the team.
As the Turfscape Field Manager explains, “I couldn’t imagine doing what I do without it. I am able to provide so much more to the customer, to my crew. My time has been freed up and I’m able to give my property the detail it deserves.”
This is just one demonstration of how automation can reduce the risk of injury or wear on the body and mind for workers, while also giving the opportunity to either learn a new skill or dive deeper into existing ones. These skills can then be taken into their future roles- slashing burnout rates and ultimately improving the overall mental health of the workforce.
Safety & awareness
Safety emerges as a crucial soft benefit of incorporating robotics into various industries, particularly in high-risk occupations, such as on an oil rig, as mentioned above.
While productivity tends to take center stage, safety is a key element of improving overall efficiency. By introducing robots to undertake perilous or dirty tasks, the frequency of injuries diminishes, alleviating the strain on human workers that could otherwise result in long-term health issues. This reduction in workplace injuries not only enhances the well-being of employees but also translates into higher employee longevity and decreased time spent addressing incidents.
In the agriculture industry, Grain Weevil’s Grain Bin Management Robot is an example of hardware that was designed from a desperate need for the safety and health of farmers who work in grain bins. Traditionally, a farmer or their staff themself would work in the grain bin, which is a notoriously dirty, hot, and dangerous environment that causes multiple incidents per year. In fact, recent studies found that 7 percent of U.S. farmers show signs of Farmer’s Lung Disease, and 23 bin entrapments led to death in 2022. This robot was built from the request of a farmer to never enter a grain bin again, and the Grain Bin Management robot demonstrates the far-reaching impact robots can have beyond productivity- even saving lives.
Consequently, the workplace experiences heightened productivity levels as human resources are utilized more effectively. The presence of robots fosters a heightened safety awareness among workers, encouraging them to develop a comprehensive understanding of how to navigate and collaborate with these machines.
This increased awareness extends to a more acute consciousness of personal safety protocols, creating a beneficial relationship where both humans and robots operate in tandem, ushering in a more secure and productive work environment than before.
Future-proofing: the new competitive advantage
Across most of the robotics industry, competitive advantage has always been a major talking point when selling hardware. Whether it’s doing a task faster, smarter, or for less, there’s plenty of discussion around how robots can help companies overcome their competitors, but what deserves the real focus is the years ahead.
Everyone worries about the future - especially in an economy as tumultuous and unpredictable as today’s. Not knowing what’s around the corner one, three, or five years down the road can be a scary feeling, as it’s difficult to prepare for what you can’t see. Automation can change the way businesses prepare, and set them up for a more adaptable workforce as priorities inevitably shift.
Future-proofing is defined as anticipating and preparing for potential future changes and challenges to minimize their impact and ensure long-term success. With AI and other technology racing onto the scene, doing so is more important now than ever. Sure, any robot worth its salt can improve operations and efficiency, but how will it help ensure the customer stays relevant as technology continues to evolve?
What else can the company offer: cutting-edge robot management software, in-depth analytics, or upskill training for employees? These are soft benefits that are harder to measure but are integral to the success of the customer just as much as ROI.
Robots provide adopters with the ability to adapt swiftly to market demands, reduce operational costs, and enhance product or service quality (in turn, improving overall customer satisfaction). Looking past the first few months of adoption, being at the forefront of robotic innovation allows companies to set industry standards, attracting top talent that will also fortify the company’s future.
When meeting with potential prospects, remember that the story of success includes more than just numbers: robots have positive impacts even beyond an impressive ROI. From improving the quality of life for workers all the way to company health in the far future, robotics provides immeasurable benefits when discussing the value of your product.