09 Feb - 09 Feb 2022

How robots can help to fill labor shortages


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Commerce Talks Episode 63

The promise of robots has been around for decades and while the home helper robot is an idea consumers are more familiar with, incorporating robots into more B2B and B2C situations is something that we have yet to see truly unfold. In this episode, we chatted with Julian Bröcheler at ABB Robotics about how robots can help to fill labor shortages, the benefits of robots in our daily lives, and what we can expect from them in the future. 

The need and benefits of robots in business

While robots will not fully substitute humans in the near future, we can certainly solve some industry problems with them. In consumer facing situations such as hospitals, restaurants, and delivery services, for example, robots can help businesses to enable beneficial elements in services that are difficult for humans such as 24 hour service. While robots are far away from a perfect solution, they can assist in filling the gaps in staff starved industries such as elderly care and hospitals. Robots can also scale quickly and in large quantities compared to onboarding or re-training human staff on changing protocol or requirements. 

The incorporation of robotics into life and into business also increases flexibility. For the customer, this can mean having the option to pick up a parcel or adapt the time a parcel is being delivered more easily and in a way that doesn’t affect human working hours or cost. Additionally, robots can mean better services for customers and less challenging or dangerous work for humans. 

Is our world built for robots?

Warehouses are currently built for humans but automation is inevitable and essential for organizations that are looking to future-proof their business. But while there are lots of advancements happening with robots to make automation more efficient, the technology behind replacing all services with robots is expensive. 

If we want to see progress with robotics, we need a business case to be able to do it. Taking the parcel pick up example, instead of replacing all postal service workers with robots, parcel pick up in lockers is a more cost effective option without requiring humans or robots. This also cuts down on cost of delivery for companies by covering less ground and paying less for a delivery service. Consumers can also see a benefit by being able to pick up their parcel at their convenience. The goal is always to make things as simple as possible, not more complicated.

Robots in the future

While robots are unlikely to solve today’s labor shortages, such as with delivery drivers, we can think of robots as expanding the bandwidth of tasks we need to complete and we can optimize ways robots are already being used as well as substitute them in the right scenarios. 

In the next year, we will see an increase in the deployment of mobile and stationary robots. Automation in warehouses is 100% possible and while consumers might not see a change in their day to day life when it comes to robots, the expansion of human senses within robots will expand their capabilities and allow them to be implemented more and more throughout industries. 


Table of Contents:

  • Robots in our everyday lives – 2:44
  • B2B robotics – 9:28
  • Working with robots vs humans – 20:45
  • Looking to automation – 25:11
  • Business model of robots –  32:27
  • The future of robots for consumers – 37:33

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