Leading manufacturers, utilities, and high tech companies around the world have adopted Spot—and customers that started with one or two robots are now scaling to deploy whole fleets and expand to additional sites. For these customers, the dynamic approach to industrial sensing and inspection enabled by Spot is delivering real ROI and accelerating digital transformation.

But as with any transformation or new approach to old problems, this requires a thoughtful approach to change management—preparing and guiding facilities, teams, and individuals through these organizational changes. Most companies have limited experience deploying mobile robots where people work and most of their employees have never encountered a robot like Spot before.

While Spot is not difficult to use day-to-day, it is unfamiliar. It’s a new kind of automation and a new way of working. Effective change management can help you get people excited about Spot as a tool in their workplace, minimize disruption during initial deployments, and enable you to operationalize faster.

Choose the Right Team

Change management is all about people—anticipating concerns, communicating clearly, and solving real problems. Many Spot deployments start in a corporate innovation or digital transformation team. But to get operational and achieve ROI, you need to expand beyond innovation.

Starting with the right team and involving key stakeholders early makes everything else in the process smoother. Firstly, the people affected by a problem should have a hand in the solution. And secondly, people are more likely to accept a big change if they were part of the decision. Common stakeholders on successful deployment teams include:

  • A dedicated program manager: Often a member of the digital transformation team, this person has typically been involved in the decision to purchase Spot and any prior pilot deployments. They are not only a champion for Spot both to the leadership team and to other teams in the organization, but they are responsible for bringing the necessary people together and keeping things moving from initial deployment to scale. Having a single point person helps drive successful, repeatable deployments.
  • A Boston Dynamics technical project manager: Our deployment services similarly are executed with a single point of contact to guide you through the deployment process, answer questions, and connect you with our technical and support resources. 
  • Facility maintenance leaders: You need the expertise, support, and leadership of the maintenance teams that will be using Spot every day. Their input is key as you plan the specifics of a deployment, deciding on what’s most valuable to inspect day in and day out. Additionally, having a facility’s maintenance leaders in the driver’s seat helps ensure that they feel confident in the deployment plan and can effectively advocate to their broader team. 
  • Well-respected employees: Especially as you get closer to deployment, you want to engage regular employees in the planning process—well-liked and respected team members who will be using Spot as a tool. Firstly, they are the people who will be routinely using Spot, so their perspective and buy-in is absolutely critical for success. And secondly, they are in the best position to communicate informally with their peers about the job Spot is doing and the benefits of this new approach.
  • IT teams: Both corporate and site-specific IT personnel will be invaluable to have on your team. They get Spot communicating on your networks, support any necessary integrations, vet cybersecurity compliance, and more. Having their support upfront also helps ensure that none of these issues will come up as unexpected roadblocks later in the deployment process.
  • Safety teams: Spot is a mobile piece of industrial equipment. It’s important to get your safety leaders involved to help ensure that you comply with existing safety guidelines, develop any Spot-specific best practices, and effectively communicate those safety expectations throughout your organization.
  • HR & Internal Communications: You may also want to engage with your HR or Internal Communications teams for support in planning your launch communication and heading off concerns that the broader employee body may have.

Get Your Site Set Up

Your deployment typically starts before Spot ever arrives on site at your facility. There are logistical details that should get squared away early so that when Spot and the deployment team arrive, you can get hit the ground running recording missions and capturing data.

For example, networking issues are a common stumbling block and can slow down the field integration process. You need Spot and Orbit to be able to communicate and potentially integrate with other software tools, working closely with IT to solve for the specifics of your unique security and networking requirements. Similarly you will want to choose a location for Spot Dock and ensure it has power and connectivity. Ideally, this location should be close to the assets Spot will be inspecting, but out of the way of routine traffic to minimize accidental blockages.

Other things you may want to consider include safety indicators and other kinds of signage. For example, if your inspection routes include stairs, you may want to add markers so staff know to exercise additional caution in those areas. Some companies paint a semi-circle at the bottom of the stairs or put up signs, reminding staff to stay clear while Spot is on the stairs. Getting these details right can help the initial deployment go more smoothly, which in turn helps both corporate and facility staff feel comfortable with Spot and see value faster.

Communicate, Communicate, Communicate

Preparing for robots and the changing workforce at your facility is as much about preparing the people as it is about the physical and technical details. There’s no such thing as too much communication in change management. Research recommends the ACE approach (Actionable, Credible, Emotional) for communicating through change. Are your communications setting expectations and establishing clear next steps? Do they explain the change and the reasons behind it? Does it give the recipients a reason to care?

This means starting with the basics—letting staff know that Spot is coming—and building from there, giving team members the opportunity to learn about Spot, to see the robot in person before it starts working, and to understand the context behind the change. People often have strong reactions, both positive and negative, the first time they see Spot. One early goal is just to get them acclimated to Spot in advance, so that by the time you start deploying operationally, the novelty has worn off and Spot is just another industrial tool. 

There are many ways to introduce Spot to your team. For example, many of our most successful customers arrange for meet and greets with Spot—whether it’s at pre-existing team meetings, company social events, or specially scheduled, these show-and-tell events can be a great opportunity to provide an overview of Spot’s capabilities and use cases, as well as letting people drive Spot, take selfies, and generally get more comfortable around the robot. Similarly, initiatives like naming contests increase awareness and help make Spot a part of the team.

In addition to these proactive events, passive, ongoing communication is incredibly helpful. It’s never possible to touch every single employee in person, so having information readily available—safety posters in the breakroom, for example—helps fill the gap. The goal is to provide multiple touchpoints and channels of communication over time, so employees can discover and absorb key information about why the robot is in the facility, where Spot will be operating, and what to expect if they encounter Spot operating autonomously. Even basic guidance like explaining what Spot’s indicator lights mean and whether to walk around Spot when it’s operating or wait to let it pass can help ease any tension when an employee runs across Spot for the first time.

Use Available Resource to Ensure Long Term Success

You want to be thinking about what long term success looks like from your very first deployment. Who will own Spot onsite in a year and what resources do they need both now and later? You want your primary operators to start with a strong foundation, receive adequate training, and have the support they need to keep up with any day-to-day requirements and reduce disruption if there’s turnover on the team.

We offer a lot of resources to help your organization best employ robots and automation in the workplace. In addition to our installation services, we have robust customer success infrastructure to enable your team on an ongoing basis. New Spot operators and managers should create an account on our Support Center, where you can file tickets, read articles, watch training videos, and access downloads. The Support Center provides valuable information from how to operate Spot safely to what basic maintenance is required to keep Spot performing at peak condition. Our Customer Learning and Development team also offers in-person training, either at Boston Dynamics headquarters or at your facility.

Taking advantage of these resources and keeping in regular contact with your Boston Dynamics customer success team helps you reduce disruption from staff turnover, keep Spot at peak performance with regular software updates, and support a successful long-term change.

Want to learn more about deploying Spot? Watch our on-demand webinar: Starting Strong: How to Deploy Mobile Robots for Industrial Inspection.