You wouldn’t expect that people skills are a pre-requisite for someone working with robots. However, for members of the Gideon Brothers’ Customer Success team, this is an integral part of their skillset.
Deployment of AI-powered warehouse robots is a delicate operation – primarily because it involves people facing change. After all, for many warehouse workers, this will be their first contact with incredible new technology. And this technology can be seen either as bringing amazing possibilities for their work and their company or threatening them with insecurity.
The stance employees take influences, quite clearly, the returns achieved by a robotics project. This is why Gideon Brothers’ Customer Success team aims at helping our clients’ employees see our warehouse robots as the amazing new technology they are. To see them as tools that are unloading some of the tedious work in logistics and manufacturing facilities.
Matej Celega, Customer Success Representative at Gideon Brothers, keeping tabs on a robot after initial roll-out at a client’s facility
How fast can it go?
And the change in stance over the first week or two can easily be tracked by the questions people ask.
“At the start of a project, employees often ask if the robots will take their jobs, and later this turns into ‘how many will we get’ and ‘how fast do they go.’ Managers start by asking if it’s safe. Once they realize how reliable and flexible the system is, they see the potential and ask ‘oh, could it do this’”, says Matej Celega, a customer success representative at Gideon Brothers.
Many are disarmed by how well the technology performs in itself. You can’t help but feel amazed.
„When they see that it actually works and that it can help them; when they see the effort we put in, this is when you note how the stances change,” explains Jerko Starčević, one of Gideon Brothers’ field engineers. He adds that a certain number of people will always be skeptic initially simply because the robots are a significant change in their everyday work environment.
Jerko Starčević, Field Engineer at Gideon Brothers, driving the robots to a client’s facility
It does what it says on the box
Matej admits that robots’ performance was what impressed him as well when he first joined Gideon Brothers.
“From everything I learned of the robot, I had formed this idea of it, of what the robot would be able to do. And it did live up to this vision. The first time I saw it, the robot was driving autonomously and entering pallet frames to lift pallets. In contrast, many other start-up projects I have heard of or read about had been based just on an idea or a concept, with the technology never living up to promises. On the other hand, at Gideon Brothers, even demonstrations for prospective clients are, whenever possible, organized not at our production facility or testing lab, but at a facility of a paying customer. There, the prospective customers can see the robots performing real tasks and earning money”, Matej says.
In a way, these demonstrations also show off the relationship between Gideon Brothers Customer Success team and the client.
“You are not just choosing a technology provider; you are choosing the team that will be able to support you. And the relationship with the client must be based on trust and confidence,” says Matej.
The strength of the team is what drew him to Gideon Brothers. He was interested in robotics and knew – or knew of – many of Gideon Brothers’ top talent who joined the company. Their joining Gideon Brothers was a strong signal that the startup does indeed have a strong foundation.
Jurica Bilić, Field Engineer at Gideon Brothers (left), working on the pallet-carrying robot
Field engineer Jurica Bilić says that it’s been very interesting to see how quickly the company, as a startup, is growing. He notes how quickly Gideon Brothers reached a point in its development where the company is offering a high and mature level of customer success support.
“I used to work as a field engineer at a company with thousands of employees all over the world that has been building their operations for over 50 years. I was impressed with what was achieved over just a few months in Gideon Brothers – the level of a standardized approach to customers, and the pace of our growth and development.”
Tomislav Tobijas, another customer success representative, started as an annotator at Gideon Brothers, helping the team training the robots to recognize what surrounds them in their environment. However, he didn’t work with the robots directly in the beginning. When he did get to see the robot live for the first time, he remembers being impressed as well with the robot navigating around obstacles and ferrying the cargo around. He says it felt almost unreal, “like in a movie.”
What he likes most about his job is how dynamic it is. He points out how he doesn’t have to spend his entire working day at his office desk and can work with different people. He shares how his work often involves poring over logs to uncover details of usage, trying to determine how to improve the usage and troubleshoot issues that arise.
Matej Celega (left) and Tomislav Tobijas (right), Customer Success Representatives, at an off-site team meeting
Matej adds how he likes the dynamic tempo as well, the constant exchange of intense roll-out periods and quiet lulls. He loves the multidisciplinary aspect of his job, which requires a good knowledge of the technology powering the robot, from hardware to the autonomy tech and the interface. He admits he would never have settled for a desk job, “just working on mechanical design.” “Don’t let Krešo hear you,” teases Jurica, referring to Gideon Brothers’ Mechanical Design team lead.
“You have to be interested in working with robots. If the hype is what drew you to Gideon Brothers, and if you don’t enjoy the excitement, the dynamics of this job will make you quit,” warns Jurica.
Jerko Starčević, the field engineer, notes how troubleshooting a problem, even if stressful, brings an incredible feeling of satisfaction once resolved.
The team is amazing, Jerko shares.
“The crew is fun to be around in casual moments and reliable in crunch time,” Jerko says. He adds that this is important as they spend a lot of time working side by side, especially during the roll-out periods. During the first days in a new facility, this also helps with the stress of having to handle skeptic workers.
From left to rigtht: Jerko Starčević, Field Engineer; Dario Ljubić, Robotics Engineer; Matej Celega, Customer Success Representative; and Kruno Stražanac, Head of Robotic Interface and Customer Success, posing with robots nicknamed after characters from a popular sci-fi show.
Rocky the Robot and Mr. Spock
So, how do they make sure the roll-out goes well? How do they turn the skeptic’s minds over the first week or two?
The key is in the individual approach, listening, and treating each question or an expressed worry with equal patience. From the customer’s side, it is crucial to keep everyone, on all levels, informed as early as possible. Allowing a pressure-free first contact with the robot is also useful. The actual roll-out – bringing in the robots and setting them to work for the first time – can usually be done in a day. However, employees who will share the workspace with the robots do need more adjustment.
“If possible, the robot should be brought to the facility earlier, so that the employees have a chance to see it, see how it moves and reacts and how easy – and safe – it is to work with,” explains Matej.
Media is often drawn to stories depicting robots as dehumanizing machines putting jobs at risk. However, a different story is also possible. One where employees give funny or cute nicknames to robots. One where a whole group of worried workers hovers around a robot that had gotten into trouble after an encounter with a speeding forklift rushing from behind a corner. A story where employees are proud their company introduced cutting-edge AI-powered coworkers and bragging how Spock, Kirk and McCoy ferry boxes for them.
Find out how Gideon Brothers’ Hardware Development team works together to create the revolutionary robot able to lift and transport palleted cargo of 800 kg.