Drives & Controls Magazine May 2023

26 n ROBOTICS May 2023 Three trends driving the robots market The impact of global labour shortages is increasingly being felt by businesses around the world as they try to keep up with customer demands. This, coupled with global uncertainty, disrupted supply chains and rising energy costs, means that more companies are looking to robotic automation as a way of increasing flexibility, building resilience and making their operations more sustainable. I see three trends dominating the robotics market in 2023 and beyond. Trend 1: Demand for robots will increase in response to global labour shortages, with robots taking on new tasks as more companies look to re-shore their operations The impact of labour shortages is already being felt widely and will continue as the effects of ageing populations and a reluctance to take on low-paid and unfulfilling employment increase. By 2030, it’s predicted that more than 85 million positions will be unfilled, hampering economic growth and presenting companies with the need to find new ways to plug gaps in their workforces. Demand for robots will be particularly strong from companies seeking to re- or near-shore their operations to help improve their supply chain resilience in the face of global events. In a survey of 1,610 US and European companies by ABB Robotics last year, 74% of European and 70% of US businesses said they are planning to reshore or near-shore their operations, with 75% of respondents in Europe and 62% in the US indicating they would be investing in robotic automation over the coming three years. While attention has focused on the impact of automation on jobs, robots will increasingly perform the dull, dirty and dangerous tasks that are no longer appealing, helping to tackle the issue of global labour and skills shortages. The expanding capabilities of robots, including the development of collaborative options with larger payloads – such as ABB’s GoFa and Swifti cobots that can be deployed safely alongside human workers – offer new possibilities for companies to both address skills gaps and make better use of their existing workforces. We will also see robots taking on tasks in new sectors such as food service and healthcare, particularly in laboratories and dispensaries. The Chinese Haidilao restaurant chain, which has more than 1,300 restaurants, mainly in Asia, is already using already robots to automate meal preparation. Meanwhile, at the University of Texas in the US, robots have revolutionised antibody research by automating the testing process, increasing the number of tests done per day from 15 to 1,000. We will see robots taking on more roles in similar settings as labour shortages continue to impact businesses. Trend 2: AI and autonomous technologies will make robots easier to use, integrate and access, allowing them to take on more tasks in new industries While autonomous technologies continue to make robots easier to program, operate and maintain, more companies are making their first investments in robots or finding ways to deploy them in new applications. The latest autonomous navigation technologies With sales of industrial robots hitting record levels, ABB Robotics president Marc Segura identifies three key trends that he predicts will drive the robotics market this year, and further. Cobots offer companies new possibilities for addressing skills gaps and making better use of their workforces