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Supply chain organisations need a Chief Robotics Officer, says Gartner

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For supply chain organisations, the future of robotics and automation is strategy-led, with the chief robotics officer (CRO) at the helm to ensure the proliferation of these technologies, according to Gartner, Inc.

The research and advisory firm said that the CRO role will provide the internal robotics and automation expertise that companies need moving forward.

“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.

“In fact, we interviewed 517 supply chain professionals from November to December of 2020 and found that 96% of respondents had used, or plan to use, cyber-physical automation in warehousing and manufacturing operations,” Klappich revealed.

Related: Gen Z’s Adoption of Hyperautomation to Drive Supply Chain Automation

Why Organisations Need a Chief Robotics Officer

The burgeoning robotics market offers a variety of options to potential buyers. However, the vast majority of companies have yet to figure out who owns, and should manage, their growing fleet of robots.

To make an informed and strategic decision surrounding these matters, Gartner said the CRO role must be established.

“Automation is going to be much more strategy-led going forward,” Klappich stressed.

“If a retailer wants to establish an automated micro fulfilment centre, 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 organisation to implement it,” he said.

The Composite Skillset of a Chief Robotics Officer

The CRO role will need skills from different areas, particular from the engineering, IT and business realms. However, the trick is to balance the often-conflicting cultures that exist between them.

For instance, engineers prioritise making things as safe as possible, even if it takes more time for testing. IT values agile processes and will prefer to fail fast and move on. Meanwhile, the business realm would tend to focus on how to best combine the value of humans, resources, and processes.

CROs must also have a deep knowledge of how automation works and what the relevant use cases are. They have to work with IT on developing a strategy for implementing new robot or automation initiatives within the existing IT environment.

Lastly, they need to align their strategy to the overall business strategy and be a partner to their executive colleagues.

“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 organisation is already automation-heavy, or wants to be, it’s best to start out with establishing a robotics centre of excellence and work their way from there,” Klappich concluded.

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