WHAT ELSE CAN COBOTS DO?
Cobots can perform tasks such as cleaning very effectively, but they have many other uses. They can assist with inspections of facilities, equipment and infrastructure. They can identify potential maintenance issues, monitor equipment performance and collect data for analysis, enabling proactive maintenance strategies.
Those cobots that are fitted out with cameras, sensors and artificial intelligence can be used to enhance security and surveillance in facilities. Imagine your trusty cobot patrolling areas, detecting unusual activity and providing real-time monitoring, augmenting the service provided by human security personnel.
We’re also seeing aerial cobot systems being deployed: high-tech drones can autonomously track moving targets while remaining in a GPS-position-held flight, providing live video and additional security.
When it comes to tasks such as inventory management, cobots are useful for tracking and using barcode scanning. They can navigate storage areas, locate and count items and update inventory systems, streamlining the process and minimising errors. And they can assist in the movement of goods and materials within a facility, transporting items from one location to another, reducing the need for manual handling.
Real progress is being made in food robotics, too, from cobots that make pizzas, deliver dishes to customers and retrieve empty plates to those that mix cocktails and make coffee. There are also robot receptionists that can perform a variety of front-of-house functions, such as checking people in for meetings, taking drinks orders, providing directions and autonomously messaging hosts.
These are new to the market, but early trials at 14forty’s parent group Compass on some of these have already taken place.
IS IT GAME OVER FOR HUMANS?
Absolutely not. It’s a natural fear for some employees but the purpose of cobots is to work alongside people. They’re instructed and monitored by human beings, sharing tasks. So, in a cleaning environment, you might expect the cobot to clean floors and vacuum large areas, leaving employees free to deep clean high-touch surfaces and monitor overall routines.
There are, of course, many jobs that cobots cannot yet perform – but technology is moving fast. The truth is some jobs will go or need to be adjusted, but overall, many more will be created as the industry demands innovation at pace. So, it’s about taking workforces on the journey, with transparency, optimism and honesty about what the future holds for everyone involved in the sector.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, a survey conducted among nearly 200 global facilities management leaders [IFMA and Softbank Robotics] revealed several barriers to the widespread adoption of cobotics. Chief among these were concerns among frontline workers regarding potential job displacement, as well as challenges related to integration, training and costs. These concerns shouldn’t be disregarded, but they can often be addressed and minimised with targeted communications strategies.
It’s worth noting that many experts believe cobots will actually create more jobs and enable human workers to move into better, safer and more engaging roles [PA Consulting].
Ultimately, the world is a different place now, with new technologies such as cobotics bringing fresh challenges and opportunities. But at 14forty we know that it is our people that make a real difference to our clients.
This forms part of our upcoming rebrand and relaunch, which also centres around championing our people, partners and the planet, embodying a set of core values that frame the way we do business.
These include being forward-looking, demonstrating integrity and respect, delivering exceptional service and leveraging the latest technology and innovation. Through these values, 14forty is ready to embrace the challenges in the market for the next decade.
The post-pandemic emphasis on higher cleaning standards instilled an industry-wide willingness to explore cobotics as a possible solution. Considering the rapid advancements in technology, there’s a strong rationale to believe that cobotics could indeed shape the future of facilities management services.
The business case for that happening is growing all the time because technology is constantly delivering innovative solutions.
The challenge is how to introduce cobots into a team and find a solution in which man and machine can work seamlessly together. The first thing to underline is that easing employee fears around cobots taking their jobs should be a primary concern for any employer bringing cobots into the workplace.
Certainly, in our case we don’t see cobots as a replacement for real employees – far from it. Cobots are designed to work alongside people. Our clients still very much want and value the personal touch that human beings bring.