How to successfully integrate robots and drive value in your organization
Updated: Oct 29, 2020
There's plenty of great online discussion surrounding the increased adoption of robotics across several industries. In this blog post, we discuss some of the key factors that can enable a successful deployment and integration of robotics into an organization. This isn’t an exhaustive list, but what follows is six key factors that can help a decision-maker solve the right problems, select the right solution, and drive the right outcomes.
Clarity on the problem you're trying to solve
This may seem obvious to some, but it’s well worth discussing. The concept of “starting with why” is now becoming a philosophy for many leaders and organizations. In the context of implementing robotics solutions, it’s easy to be enthusiastic about them. Robots are pretty cool after all.
It’s important to start with and clearly define the problem you’re trying to solve. What are the objectives for your department and the broader organization? Why are those the objectives? What are the operational challenges preventing the organization from achieving them?
Your organization is likely not the only one facing a lot of problems you identify. A good robotics solution should have had a lot of upfront customer discussions informing its design, so that it specifically tackles these problems, and does so really well.
Read our earlier blog post titled Why Security Robots? to read more about the most challenging problems we see for security operations, and how we solve them.
How well does the robotics solution solve the problem?
There are no real jack-of-all-trades robots on the market right now. Robots are designed to execute a handful of tasks extremely well: efficiently, reliably, and at high quality. It’s important to recognize this from the outset. When evaluating robotic solutions from vendors, tie it back to the problem you’re trying to solve. Consider the following examples of questions:
What processes and tasks will the robot perform?
How will this solve the problem? What measurable improvements can we expect for our particular application?
What processes and tasks will the robot not perform?
How will it impact the tasks we expect our people to perform?
Seamless integration and simplification
At Alterra Robotics, we spent a lot of time during development on understanding customer processes, systems, and organizations. Doing so helped us understand what we needed to develop and offer to solve real problems, and enable seamless integration into existing systems, workflows, and teams.
A robotics solution that increases complexity in workflows, requires new roles or considerable training can be detrimental to achieving success. The keys here are ease of integration into workflows, and intuitive or autonomous robot operations requiring minimal human input and workarounds
Don’t forget about systems and software, consider how the robotics solution impacts the IT landscape. A strong solution uses simple, intuitive UI, or even better - the robots integrate into or even improve existing systems and software.
Have a clear business case
First, define what success looks like for robot deployment. Not just in terms of numbers, but qualitative, tangible, and intangible benefits to the business, its customers, and employees.
Of course, any important or valuable business decision will likely need a business case that not only outlines these outcomes but also measurable financial impacts. Typically this could include ROI, cost-savings, reduced risk, or reduced incidents, amongst others.
Having a strong business case will likely get better leadership support and focus, which is ultimately going to benefit the buy-in from the wider organization and increase the chances of success.
Set measurable goals
Define, set, and track metrics and targets that are relevant and tie back to the business case and problem being solved. I highly recommend the SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Timebound) criteria for defining KPIs. It’s important to establish a baseline for these metrics covering a sensible period of time before robot deployment so that improvements can be tracked, recognized, and celebrated.
It’s also important to measure these on a regular basis, some may be daily or weekly, others may be medium-to-longer term, reported monthly or quarterly tying back to strategic priorities and the business case. A good robotics partner should offer to help track these so as not to impose a greater workload on the organization.
Start with a pilot
It’s rare to see organizations implement transformative technology programs across a large swath of their business from the outset. Instead, they focus on learning from and demonstrating results with a smaller scale pilot before moving on to broader implementation. This helps both the vendor and customer demonstrate success, adapt quickly, and improve the chances and scale of success when it comes to implementing organization-wide.
So what selection criteria can we use for a pilot? It depends on each organization and program, but consider the following points for a robotics deployment:
Select a sub-set of processes and capabilities of the robotics solution, one where business outcomes are tangible and measurable. The pilot plan can include the expansion of a robot’s tasks based on achieving milestones.
For larger organizations, choose a specific but representative site, area, or department where the solution can be safely deployed and compared against the performance of other sites or departments.
Last but not least, think about the visibility of this pilot to leadership and the broader organization. Communicate the pilot, both before and during, to the rest of the organization. Highlight successes and generate buy-in from the wider group of stakeholders.
How Alterra Robotics approaches integration
At Alterra Robotics, we've strived from Day 1 to be true partners and work hand-in-hand with customers from the very beginning of the process.
We provide upfront support with security risk diagnostics and on-site assessments to help customers through the journey of planning for successful robot deployment. Alterra Robotics offers a free site security diagnostic tool to help organizations understand the health of their security operations and recommendations for the way forward.
Beyond this, we also provide what we like to call white-glove service for robot deployments: we help plan for and deploy the robots working together with your teams, from developing business cases, to operational planning, new workflows, metrics, employee training, and stakeholder communication. On an ongoing basis, the performance and operational effectiveness of the robot are monitored by us, as well as maintenance of the robot unit itself.
Now, one way for a vendor to supply robots is to ship it in a crate with a user manual and leave it to the customer to set up and operate. At Alterra Robotics, we don’t see that as a recipe for success for us or our customers. We know from market feedback that the majority of customers would prefer to deploy these robots as part of an operating expense budget, often looking to free up that budget at the same time.
So we decided early on to offer robots on a Robot-as-a-Service, or RaaS, model. For our customers, it means they can rapidly deploy and integrate robots into their operations for a monthly service fee.
To sum it up, we strive to deliver successful, sustainable integration of automation into organizations: from helping customers identify problems that could be solved through robotics, developing business cases, defining new workflows and integrating robotics, simplifying systems and transforming their operations successfully and sustain it long term.