Expertise And Labour Outweigh Cost In Autonomous Technology

When industrial technology organizations consider investing in autonomous technology, the assumption is often that cost is the primary concern. However, a survey conducted among over 160 leaders in the construction, agriculture, and mining sectors reveals that cost is actually the least significant hurdle. Instead, their greatest worries revolve around internal expertise and labour.

According to the survey respondents, there are three main hesitations preventing substantial investments in autonomous work, at least for the time being.

Lack of internal tech expertise:

Before implementing new technology, it is common for leaders to worry about the complications it may introduce to processes, systems, or workflows, requiring additional internal resources to manage. In the construction, agriculture, and mining industries, 41% of leaders express that the lack of internal expertise prevents them from investing in autonomy because their team doesn’t know how to deploy or manage it.

Fortunately, the good news is that internal tech experts are not essential for successfully implementing or benefiting from autonomous work. By engaging an expert to provide proper system design and training, many of these obstacles can be overcome. Kevin Andrews, a strategic marketing manager at Trimble, emphasizes that autonomy is still in its early phase within these industries, and there are many uncertainties. Asking the right questions and selecting the appropriate systems require experience, which is where a reliable partner can help. They can provide guidance, drawing from their own lessons learned and acting as an extension of the in-house team.

Excessive reliance on human intervention:

Learning new skills and managing autonomous equipment pose a significant time investment concern for 39% of industrial technology leaders. They fear that the expected productivity improvements won’t outweigh the time spent. Andrews explains that having standardized products and processes in place for autonomous platforms can alleviate this concern. When products can seamlessly communicate with each other, workers spend less time troubleshooting, and data transfer becomes more efficient, allowing for streamlined operations. Moreover, different levels of autonomy allow for varying degrees of worker involvement, such as

  • Fully autonomous work eliminates the need for human supervision, with complete workflow automation.
  • Supervised autonomy involves a high level of automation but with minimal operator supervision.
  • Partial autonomy entails automated tasks with operator assistance..

When implemented correctly, autonomous technology saves time for workers rather than consuming more of their hours, making existing employees more productive. In fact, 56% of respondents invest in autonomous technology to overcome labour shortages.

Also, nearly 50% of respondents intend to pursue fully autonomous workflows, aiming to eliminate the necessity for workers to handle autonomous technology, as further indicated by the survey.

Trust issues with the technology:

Introducing new technology often leads to initial scepticism and a lack of trust. It takes time for people to build confidence, as seen with the internet and the early adoption of automobiles. Currently, 31% of the survey respondents express a struggle to trust autonomous technology.

To address this challenge, Kevin Andrews emphasizes the importance of technology providers earning trust by deploying autonomous technology thoughtfully, adhering to safety standards, and demonstrating a deliberate approach. Potential autonomy partners should be thoroughly evaluated regarding their development, testing, and validation processes, as well as their ability to provide the necessary support for the organization. Gradually implementing autonomous work can also enable individuals to witness the technology in action, fostering trust-building.

To gain further insights into autonomous technology, Trimble and Industry Dive conducted a survey involving over 160 executives, directors, managers, and supervisors in construction, agriculture, and mining. By downloading the report titled “Investments in Autonomous Technology Are on the Rise — Even in an Uncertain Economy,” organizations can access a comprehensive collection of exclusive data and expert insights, comparing their own practices and future plans with those of industry leaders.