The Essential Eight technologies Board byte: robotics

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What should corporate boards know about robotics?

Companies are using robots in more places than factories. Many are looking for ways to use robotics to be more efficient. Boards should understand if their company plans to use robotics and how this technology might impact the company's strategy. 

Robotics technology

Photo courtesy of NASA. Used with permission.

Five big trends

How are robotics changing the way companies do business? 

  1. Robots are working in more places than just factories. At one time, robots could function only inside tightly controlled and structured environments. Now they can handle dynamic, less predictable settings. 
  2. Robots can work with people. Thanks to sensors and smart technology, new generation robots no longer pose the same safety risks to their human “collaborators.”
  3. Robots can learn. The new robots can “learn” skills through trial and error, mimicking the way people learn new tasks.
  4. Robots are no longer single-task machines. Robots can now be customized to fit the company’s specific needs. 
  5. Robots are moving to the front office. Robots are working in positions where they interact directly with customers and employees. 
Current and projected robotics use by industry
Questions for corporate boards about robotic

Questions boards can ask management about robotics

How can boards discuss the potential and strategic fit for emerging robotic solutions with management? Here are some questions that can help initiate the conversation:

  • Have we inventoried our processes and identified repetitive, mundane or undifferentiated tasks done by humans that could be carried out by robots?
  • Were any automation efforts shelved in the past because of high cost? If so, are they viable now?
  • Are there tasks that we do not perform because they are not core to our business, but we would if we could do so economically?
  • Are there tasks that require high precision and dexterity that we have difficulty securing human talent to perform?

Read more in our "Board byte" on robotics.

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