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Physical Technology - Robots


The concept of robots (mostly in human form) has existed for over a century, largely in the confines of science fiction. The truth is robots have surrounded us for decades, in homes, workplaces and alongside us daily. Many of the machines that make modern life easier – washing machines, microwaves, dishwashers, coffee machines, vacuum cleaners – are all robots.

How will robots continue to become part of everyday life? Japan leads the world in robot use, as home to 310,000 of the 1.4 million industrial robots in existence.  Companies including Toyota and Honda are involved in global robotic development to meet evolving needs. Japan needs 4 million aged care nurses by 2025, however they currently have only 1.89 million. Enter the robot…


Chinese company Foxconn, assembler of mobile phones, grew the number of factory robots tenfold in only a year, from 30,000 in 2011 to over 300,000 by the end of 2012, equivalent to one for every four workers. Unlike humans, once the initial costs are paid, they notionally work free of charge.

Locally, robots are being developed by Woodside Petroleum for use on oil and gas rigs to complete dangerous work. Robots are also working within the Sydney Harbour Bridge’s many tunnels, blasting old paint off as part of the repainting program.

Despite the significant increases in adoption, presently only 10% of global manufacturers use robots, so the remaining potential is abundant.

Robots in warehouses can move boxes at a rate of one per second, whereas a human can achieve one every six seconds. Bricklaying robots can manage 1,000 bricks an hour against a human at 700 a day. Additionally, the machine will never suffer a back injury, an important consideration given that in the United States the average age of a factory worker is 56.

The benefits of robots are increasingly quantifiable and far further reaching every year. The estimated cost savings of introducing robotic process automation over three to five years for front office functions are 55%, supply chain functions 40%, customer management and sales 35%, finance and accounting 40% and human resources 39%.

To learn what’s next in commercial property and robotics, contact Tony Crabb, National Director, Research.

Read more of Cushman & Wakefield’s Futurology series, 

click here.