Need for chief robotics officer at supply chain organizations

The latest Gartner report said supply chain organizations need to create the role of chief robotics officer (CRO) to drive the proliferation of robotics and automation technologies.
IDC report indicates that the spending on robotics and drones will increase at 17.1 percent to $128.7 billion in 2020 and $241.4 billion in 2023.

Between 2019 and 2023, robotics is estimated to capture a larger chunk of the spending at $112.4 billion in 2020. Spending on drones will total $16.3 billion in 2020.

“Nearly every business is going to have a robot doing something for them within the next decade,” said Dwight Klappich, vice president analyst with the Gartner Supply Chain practice.

Gartner has interviewed 517 supply chain professionals from November to December of 2020 and found that 96 percent of respondents had used, or plan to use, cyber-physical automation in warehousing and manufacturing operations.

Many organizations lack the internal robotics and automation expertise and don’t know enough to make an informed and strategic decision. The vast majority of companies have yet to figure out who owns, and should manage, their growing fleets of robots.

“If a retailer wants to establish an automated micro fulfillment center, there needs to be a strategy on how this will come to be. Someone must take on the leadership role and develop this strategy and the organization to implement it,” Klappich said.

Chief Robotics Officer Roles

The CRO role ideally combines skills from the engineering, IT and business realms. The challenge is that there are many cultural differences between those areas. Engineers want to make things as safe as possible, even if it takes more time for testing.

CROs must have a deep knowledge of how automation works and what the relevant use cases are. They have to collaborate with IT and develop a strategy for implementing robot or automation initiatives within the existing IT environment. They need to align their strategy to the overall business strategy and be a partner to their executive colleagues.

The report said the CRO role in supply chain will evolve similar to the CIO role in IT and start gaining in importance over the decade. “If an organization is already automation-heavy, or wants to be, it’s best to start out with establishing a robotics center of excellence and work their way from there,” Klappich said.

Another Gartner report said chief supply chain officers (CSCOs) must incorporate regional designs into their global networks without diluting the cost or competitive advantages of existing global networks, Kamala Raman, vice president analyst with the Gartner Supply Chain practice, said.

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