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Get ready for the cobots
Huge opportunities in
Leading companies are preparing for
the rise of the cobots: collaborative
robots that can carry out advanced
tasks and interact with human
managers in two-way exchanges --
and take the integration of men and
machines to levels only dreamt of in
science fction movies.
Cobots are designed to interact
physically with humans in shared
workspaces, not just operate
autonomously or with limited guidance.
Think Rosie the robot maid from The
Jetsons cartoon, and other cobots capable
of talking to humans, taking instructions
and thinking for themselves.
About 85 per cent of managers expect
to be commonplace by 2020, according
to an Accenture survey of 500 executives
worldwide. Many respondents see the
'connected industrial workforce' as
critical to their strategy.
The survey found that companies
plan to boost their investments in
collaborative robots and augmented
reality devices, such as smart glasses
and helmets. They will enable cobots
to take on more tasks -- such as
product assembly – in the next fve
years, and boost productivity.
'As cobots take on more and more
specialised tasks, the digital leaders
(companies) are moving rapidly toward
writes Accenture in its report, 'Machine
Dreams: Making the Most of the
Connected Industrial Workforce'.
It is a huge opportunity. 'The
digital revolution is transforming
manufacturing,' writes Accenture.
‘By bringing machines and artifcial
intelligence into the workforce, it is
enabling an increasingly adaptable,
change-ready and responsive working
environment: a connected industrial
workforce in which humans and
machines, working together, reinvent
the production and service processes
by which manufacturing outcomes
Accenture adds: 'This connected
industrial workforce promises to
boost manufacturing productivity
exponentially, as well as improving
operational effciency, and enhancing
safety and risk management.
Furthermore, as labour costs in such
previously low-wage countries
as China continue to rise, the
connected industrial workforce
offers manufacturers an opportunity
to mitigate the impact on the
competitiveness of plants located in
But many companies are unprepared
for the opportunities and threats
of cobots, says Accenture. Only
one in fve companies surveyed
implemented measures to take
advantage of the connected industrial
It is unlikely that many companies
are adequately preparing human
managers to lead a growing number
of cobots that will work on the factory
foor, in warehouses, and increasingly
in white-collar job environments.
Ensuring that managers can interact
with cobots, some of which are
capable of programming themselves
intuitively, will be a huge task.
10 lessons for the digital age
Organisations need to stop 'talking'
about digital and start thinking about
Famed Paris-based business school INSEAD has provided
important insights on the concept of 'digital' in a recent
survey of 1160 managers, executives and board directors
across a range of industries and countries.
The study, 'The Real Impact of Digital as seen from the
Virtual Coalface', found that there is no universal meaning
of digital; that companies are not driven by digital, but
use it to achieve specifc business objectives; that digital
is a journey with no clear destination in sight; that not all
companies need a digital strategy; and that digital success
is primarily about people.
The authors, Liri Andersson of consultancy this fuid
world, and Ludo Van der Heyden, INSEAD Professor of
Corporate Governance and Technology, wrote: '[Digital]
success is perceived as [being] rooted in leadership and
management, yet a signifcant proportion of respondents
feel this gets insuffcient attention’.
Forge has summarised the author 's 10 recommendations
1. Clarify and qualify what you mean by 'digital'. The
research found that no standard form or meaning of
digital has so far emerged.
2. Own your digital journey. Organisations should
explore, test and learn along the digital journey.
3. Make digital everyone's business. There must be a
strong understanding of digital across the board and
executive team, and throughout the organisation.
4. Fully explore the opportunities that digital offers
before defning a solution. Prior to investing in
digital solutions, ensure suffcient internal and
external collaboration with key partners.
5. Be wary of 'expert bias' in the digital space. Expert
advice often comes with expert bias; beware the risk
of preconceived notions before investing in digital.
6. Engage the entire board in digital. Boards that are
disconnected from digital are, in effect, disconnected
from the entire business.
7. Make people, management and culture the
main drivers of digital. Too many organisations
view digital as a technology issue, when it is a
8. Measure the effect of digital on business success:
recognise that traditional key performance indicators
might not capture the true success or failure of
9. Decide if you need a standalone digital strategy. Not
every organisation needs a digital strategy; just be
clear as to why a digital plan is not required.
10. Manage the spillover effects of digital on the
wider organisation. Don't underestimate the
impact of digital across a range of organisation
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