Amidst the ongoing challenges faced by American businesses due to the persistent labor shortage stemming from the COVID-19 pandemic, there's a growing realization that a significant portion of the workforce that exited in recent years may never return. In response to this dilemma, robots are stepping in to fill the void left by human workers.
Autonomous delivery robots are becoming a common sight in hotels, airports, and other public spaces, as businesses, grappling with a shortage of manpower, increasingly turn to emerging technology to sustain their services. Ritukar Vijay, the co-founder and CEO of robot-maker Ottonomy.IO, emphasizes that their products are not designed to replace human workers. Instead, these robots are deployed to complement existing staff, bridging gaps and enhancing efficiency for both businesses and consumers.
According to Vijay, the severe labor shortage has created a crunch in staffing for many companies. Ottonomy's delivery robots, equipped with the capability to navigate through both indoor and outdoor crowds, are designed to deliver food, parcels, or equipment in compartments comparable to a standard shopping cart. The company has a diverse clientele across Europe, the Middle East, and North America, with a successful service running at CVG Airport in Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky for the past six months.
Despite concerns about job displacement, the Ottobots have achieved a remarkable safety record, with zero incidents reported among the 2,000 deliveries made at CVG. Ottonomy.IO has already extended its services to airports in Philadelphia and Rome.
Vijay emphasizes that their robots are not just a technological solution but also a cost-effective one. Ottonomy adopts a subscription model called Robotics as a Service (RaaS), which they claim is more efficient, safer, and cheaper compared to traditional third-party delivery services. Vijay asserts that customers experience a return on investment from the first month of installation, with cost savings of up to nearly 50% compared to alternative delivery services.
While Ottonomy's delivery bots can communicate with humans through screens displaying various information and speakers for audible messages, Vijay dismisses the idea of these robots replacing servers in a sit-down restaurant setting. He notes that the essence of being served in a restaurant involves a unique human experience that robots, at least for now, cannot replicate. The warmth and personal touch that patrons seek when dining inside a restaurant remain distinctly human.