Automation and robotics are set to change the economic landscape in the coming decades. A combination of improvements in artificial intelligence, Internet of Things devices and robotics will create new roles in facility management and change many of the processes we see today. Already, automation has affected how people interact in the workplace and has both replaced and created a number of jobs across industries. But what can we expect in the next decade?
Facility security can be an overwhelming challenge. Physical premises need to be patrolled and watched to avoid issues like break-ins and thefts during or after work hours. Current physical security methods usually involve a mix of human security guards, security cameras and sensors. Security in the future may involve heavier use of drones. Drones can be programmed to patrol a space and look out for anomalies or threats without the need of a human supervisor. Integrating artificial intelligence and data systems can also help these security robots become highly-adaptive—consistently changing their patterns as they learn more about the facility's security needs.
AI as user interfaces
Artificial intelligence is growing at a rapid pace both in the amount of applications available and the capacities of the technology. Consumers can talk to their phones to set reminders or have systems like Clara book meetings using natural, conversational language. Facility managers should expect AI to play a greater role in how staff interact with their devices.
An AI assistant may notify contractors about equipment maintenance or respond directly to facility requests without human intervention.
Tasks like gathering data, conducting research and answering highly-specific questions may be taken over by AI systems as well—managers and their staff will need to learn how best to interact with their AI systems. This could mean understanding how the system behind the interface works, knowing which commands are available to you to use and being able to train other employees to use these technologies.
Labor and maintenance
Physical tasks like moving boxes and fixing equipment are highly suited for automation through the use of robots. Companies like Amazon and Ford have already been using technology like this in their operations. It is predicted that robotic technologies will improve with the coming years to be able to perform fine-motor tasks and work alongside other robots in a sophisticated and automated system. Facility managers may see this technology in the form of robotic maintenance workers that come to fix equipment or help move large pieces of furniture. Facility maintenance tasks like floor cleaning are also ripe for automation, as we see consumer options like the Roomba already thriving on the market.
Companies should be cautious about leveraging automation to improve workplace productivity without first understanding the risks. Forward-looking facility managers should always consider cybersecurity and government regulation when implementing automation, as these new technologies involve the use of systems and data that might be vulnerable to leaks or attacks. It's also important to consider the effects of automation on a company's workforce. Managers should look into training programs and skill development for their employees to help them work well alongside machines.
While it's hard to predict exactly how fast these technologies will affect the workplace, it's safe to say that in the coming decades, automation will play a bigger role in our jobs and lives. Managers that can leverage automation technology while reducing the risks that come with it will be able to shape a more adapted and productive workplace.
Article by Nick Mason, OfficeSpace