The next stage in robotic automation is here. Thanks to substantial investment over the past two decades, new, commercially viable robotic applications are emerging, and the sophistication of these physically-embodied robots will continue to increase. Global robotic spending for hardware, services and software is expected to triple by the end of 2021, to $215 billion, according to IDC.
As robots gain ability to sense, learn, plan and act, and become increasingly “consumerized,” business leaders will see opportunities for growth and new forms of interaction with humans. Achieving full benefits requires a sound strategy to identify which type of robots is the right fit for a specific business and industry.
Accenture Labs studied several uses cases by industry and detailed a five-step “journey” along a Robotics Maturity Model.
"Employees are usually more effective at doing their jobs when working with teammates, especially with peers who have complementary skillsets. Similarly, robots can be better at their tasks when behaving as teammates among humans."
University of California-Santa Cruz
The new generation of robots can handle an increasing amount of variability, allowing these machines to navigate and complete tasks in less-structured environments with more efficiency.
We see some of the most effective robotics applications in semi-structured environments, where a robot is integrated as a part of an overall system, and digital information helps the robot to perform more intelligently. As such, robots are already being used across industries including:
Handling, building, transferring and packaging products and materials.
Tracking and transporting goods.
Monitoring patients and providing transportation within hospitals.
Customer service interactions and compliance.
Precision spraying and automated picking of crops.
The rate of adoption of robotics will depend, in part, on the type of robot required for a specific use case. Several types of robots exist today, each with a differing set of functionality and applications. Examples and potential uses include:
INDUSTRIAL ROBOTIC ARMS—Led by the automotive industry, robotic arms revolutionized manufacturing, with their efficiency at repetitive tasks requiring high degrees of accuracy and repeatability.
COBOTS—Collaborative robots, or cobots, are designed to operate safely around or with humans.
MOBILE/WHEELED UNMANNED ROBOTS—Capable of locomotion through an environment, typically using wheels.
AUTONOMOUS VEHICLES—Specific implementation of wheeled robots that aim to revolutionize transportation and delivery.
HUMANOID ROBOTS / LEGGED ROBOTS—Use bipedal or quadrupedal locomotion to traverse uneven terrain and obstacle-filled environments.
DRONES/UNMANNED AERIAL VEHICLES—Unmanned aircrafts that can be remote-controlled, semi-autonomous or fully autonomous.
AUTONOMOUS UNDERWATER VEHICLES—Allow for aquatic inspection, maintenance and exploration in ocean environments unsuitable for humans.
SOCIAL ROBOTS—Can interact and communicate with people or other machines by following a set of social behaviors and rules.
EXOSKELETONS—Physically augment human performance allowing for increased stamina, consistency and/or strength.
The increasing capabilities robotics offers shows no sign of slowing. Given the myriad opportunities, business leaders must activate their enterprise robotics journeys now, innovate with flexible robots in semi-structured or unstructured environments and prepare their people for human-robot teaming.
Using our Robotics Maturity Model and Robotics Capability Model as guides, you can start the robotics journey with these steps:
Read the full report for more on the opportunities in enterprise robotics.