Half of the Italian SMEs are planning the introduction of robots in the company, while 14% have already introduced them. These are the results of a research carried out by fruitcore robotics, a deep-tech company born in Germany in 2017, which interviewed 500 Italian professionals and managers – who mainly carry out, plan or supervise manual work in companies with 50-500 employees – to find out what they think about working with robots.
Research shows that general sentiment is positive. According to the majority of respondents (62%), up to now it has been mainly ‘office jobs’ that have benefited from digitization, so it is The time has come to give priority also to the production departments (64%).
For about two thirds, robots could be a good first step towards digitization and automation. Many workers are hoping for a practical change in their daily work, such as an increase in job quality or the prospect of having to work less with hazardous substances.
Some also cite an improvement in the perception of work: 33% say that robots would allow them to perform fewer repetitive tasks, 32% would feel easier, 29% would do less physically demanding work, 28% say that the jobs would become more interesting, while 26% would feel proud to be able to work with high technology.
The fruitcore survey also provides employers with guidance on measures that the workforce would like to see implemented, such as accompaniment the introduction of robots, and offers food for thought for institutional managers.
“Everyone knows the big industrial robots that assemble cars or others heavy equipment in production lines. But now there is also a new generation of robots, smaller, more digital, more connected and accessible to small and medium-sized businesses.
As these new ‘digital robots’ are also very easy to put into operation and can be used without prior knowledge, they are making their way into medium-sized companies “, says Jens Riegger, CEO and co-founder of fruitcore robotics.
“Too often we have heard that employees’ fear of being replaced by robots prevents modernization. Our survey shows that the concerns are there, but the expectations are far higher. The professionals and managers of Italian SMEs have understood that digitalization and automation are central to being future-proof“.
Not all employees would positively accept new robot colleagues: 7% say they would feel superfluous if they were introduced, 10% would be afraid of innovations and 11% would be “overwhelmed”. A quarter of production managers also said they fear the complexity of working with robots.
Managers need to be able to assess these concerns. The measures of accompaniment, in fact, can facilitate change: 40% of respondents consider it particularly important to have access to training programs that facilitate work with robots (40%).
Organization and good planning are also fundamental: more than a quarter (26%) states that no employee should work exclusively with robots. Furthermore, many would like to be able to decide which tasks to entrust to robots and which not (31%).
Almost a quarter (24%) say that working with robots would have more time to devote to more valuable tasks, and would like to have good planning of new tasks ahead.
The managerial staff of companies that already use robots underline with an above average frequency that even the clear prospect of a salary increase in case of taking on higher quality tasks (34% vs 27% on average) or prospect of a four-day week (27% vs 23% on average) can be interesting accompanying measures.
According to management staff, the introduction of robots brings several benefits to the production line. Processes in companies could run faster (67%), quality (67%) and productivity (63%) would increase, robots would represent a competitive advantage (64%) and perhaps even a solution to the problem of the shortage of skilled workers (59%).
The latter is a significant problem that the inclusion of robots can overcome: 68% of respondents say that their company has difficulty in finding skilled workers or needs a long time to do so. Also, robots could make it safer working environment (65%) and relieving workers from repetitive (69%) and poorly ergonomic tasks (64%).
To achieve the expected benefits, SMEs should exploit the full potential of digital robots. According to the production managers interviewed, about a third of companies intend to do so: 34% would evaluate the data of the robots to improve their performance and longevity. 33% would connect them to the cloud to always work with the latest updates (24% would not do so due to security concerns) and more than a quarter (29%) also intend to explore artificial intelligence solutions.
“The return on investment in relation to the inclusion of robots digital takes place within six months on average, ”says Patrick Heimburger, CRO (Chief Revenue Officer) and co-founder of fruitcore robotics. “This will allow robots to spread to many sectors of the economy.
Large-scale digitization and automation represent an important change that institutions can help deliver. We then asked the experts how politics can accompany innovation. Also in this case, most are in favor of packages related to the world of education, especially as regards technical training“.
According to 42% of respondents, schools and secondary education institutions should offer better technical programs to prepare society for large-scale robotic automation. More than a third (39%) stress the importance of incentives for private companies to provide better digital training.
32% declare the need for a universal basic income as a “safety net”, while a fifth think a tax on robots is useful in balancing income tax cuts.