As demand for robots grows as firms across multiple industries seek new methods to increase their productivity and competitiveness after the pandemic, ABB has compiled a list of growth forecasts that focus on the key factors that will drive demand for robots over the next year.
“The pandemic has brought about a number of global megatrends ranging from shortages of labor and supply chain uncertainties to the increasing individualized nature of the customer and increasing demand to be sustainable and resiliently. This is causing companies to explore robots,” says Marc Segura ABB’s new Robotics Division President. “As technology provides new avenues to satisfy customer demands, new trends are likely to emerge and will create demand in areas in which robots are traditionally not utilized.”
Based on customer feedback along with market research and an extensive survey of 250 businesses across different sectors, ABB has identified three major trends that will influence the demand for robots into 2022.
Trend1 – EV revolution brings wholesale changes to automobile manufacturing
Many countries are restricting and discontinuing production of combustion engines in the coming decade and the transition to electric vehicles has been accelerating. Manufacturers as well as their supply chains need to take on the challenge in diversifying their production into EVs along with combustion engine vehicles to comply with the various regulatory frameworks that govern EV acceptance across the globe. The speed and increased flexibility required will see established and new manufacturers depart from traditional linear manufacturing to modular and modular production.
Segura stated: “EV is not about an improvement only in the engine, it’s about rather a bigger transformation towards a digital automobile. The transition will also bring increasing use of robots as well as other technologies, such as Autonomous Mobile Robots (AMR’s). This will allow manufacturers to improve the distribution of their components across factories and allow for integrated, modular production cells , which are typically associated with e-commerce as well as products for consumers, however are now necessary in automotive manufacturing to give the flexibility needed to meet the different demands.”
A further major change will bring battery manufacturing closer to the assembly of vehicles, to ensure sustainability and meet local requirements. This typically requires brand new manufacturing facilities.
Trend 2. E-commerce boom is expected to accelerate
Consumer behaviour and expectations are forcing companies to come up with new strategies to meet consumer demand. They are developing new channels with omnichannel shopping and adjusting their manufacturing lines and distribution methods to facilitate customization of products and delivery. In order to meet these demands, there have been hundreds of robots put in place which were not in use only five years ago and the rapid pace of automation is expected to continue into 2022 due to the changing trends in consumer behavior and a rising labour shortage.
“This trend is expected to see the development of lighter and smaller robotics, which will enable the development of automation into new areas such as distribution and warehousing. When Artificial Intelligence in robotics matures and robots that learn become more common anticipate for these technology to be used in conjunction with AMR technologies, which are orchestrated and controlled by smart software to offer greater agility, speed, and efficiency,” Segura continued.
Trend 3 – Robots will be appearing at more locations – and workers will require new abilities
Cheaper, smaller and user-friendly robots, like ABB’s YuMi(r) GoFa and SWIFTI cobots help to eliminate some of the obstacles that were that prevented businesses from investing in robotics. The trend is accelerating of robots within general industry as well as small and medium-sized companies as companies look for new methods to automate various tasks.
Segura added: “As we look beyond 2022, we are seeing an increasing importance placed on data acquisition and connectivity as the key enablers for future manufacturing. The data gathered from smartly-automated processes can be evaluated by manufacturers to make more informed choices. While at the same time the more sophisticated and flexible programming and simulation software tools, like the ones in ABB’s RobotStudio(r) that will encompass all phases of robotic systems from commissioning to stream productivity – making use of AR as well as VR tools to make automation easier for clients.”
The increased capability robots to work directly alongside humans, collaborate on tasks, and gain knowledge through AI is making it easier for businesses to incorporate intelligent automation into new settings, like hospitals, construction, food and beverage outlets.
In the future, with an increasing number of robots at work personnel, engineers, and engineers must be trained and more robotics-related training is expected at colleges, schools and universities to acquire the ability to programme, manage and maintain robots in the future of automation.
10 years of evolution
The 2022 predictions represent the most recent chapter of the continuing transformation of robotic automation , which is witnessing a rapid increase and widespread adoption of robots in the industry.
“While automation was always about productivity and quality – increasing it to do more – the changes we’re seeing today (the most significant in the last generation) suggest that flexibility and efficiency are the key in achieving success.” concluding Marc Segura. “Today flexibility is crucial and is a crucial requirement that is vital across all value chains: from the point of manufacturing and logistics to consumption. Automation through robotics is an essential facilitator of this flexibility.
“ABB’s aim is to help our customers to achieve this flexibility and bring value to their business by fostering innovation that creates new possibilities using robots, mobile robotics and machine automation. This is supported by digital services and the training they require to reap the maximum benefit from the investment they make.”