Investing in automation is increasingly seen as a necessary step for performing many of the difficult-to-staff tasks that are required to succeed today.

Ongoing labor shortages, easier-to-use robotic solutions and new industries embracing robotics, such as restaurants, retail, construction and even agriculture, led to a record number of robots sold in North America in 2022, at least through Q3. We expect these trends—and others—to contribute to the growth of automation in 2023.

Labor Shortages Continue

Labor shortages remain a key driver in the growth of automation. As every industry struggles to find people, especially those willing to perform the “dull, dirty and dangerous” jobs, the move to automation will continue. There are definitely more jobs than people to fill them, and this remains true in most industries, including restaurants, hotels, manufacturing, food processing and more. In manufacturing at least, the difficulty finding workers can be attributed to an aging workforce nearing retirement and a younger generation less interested in working in these environments. Companies are finding that automating many of the manual tasks simply makes the most sense to fill labor gaps and improve productivity overall.

The best way to bring manufacturing back quickly is to automate.

No Code And Easier-To-Use Robotics

Companies such as Wandelbots, Rapid Robotics and Ready Robotics have developed robots without any programming required. Making robots easier to use in this way allows more organizations to automate, especially small and medium-sized companies that are new to automation and likely do not have the in-house capabilities to handle complicated programming and set-up tasks. Robots are also becoming increasingly collaborative, flexible and more dexterous. Without requiring coding, new robot deployment can often be achieved in hours or days. Many robotics vendors also have developed a wide range of packaged solutions meaning a company can get everything it needs to automate a specific task with little or no extra engineering required.

Proliferation Of Robots To New Industries

New industries deploying robotics continues to be a major trend, with more companies in restaurants, retail, construction, agriculture, hospitals and more recognizing the benefits automation can offer. Innovative companies around the world are emerging with solutions for tasks like drywall finishing, shelf-scanning, food preparation and service, fruit picking, hospital delivery and more. In Q3 2022 alone, North American companies ordered 11,901 robots, up 20% and 22%respectively over the third quarter of 2021 with companies in the semiconductor/electronics (44%), life sciences (33%) and food/consumer goods (1%) industries ordering more robots than the same quarter last year.

While interest in robots often fluctuates during any quarter in any given industry, the steadily increasing numbers shows the value more industries see in investing in automation.

Cybersecurity And Sustainability Grow In Importance

As more robots are used in an increasingly connected world, companies are starting to place more emphasis on preventing these systems from being hacked. While there is no one-size-fits all solution for manufacturers, organizations are tailoring their cybersecurity strategy to fit their needs. This requires more education and more collaboration among not just the IT and security teams but across the entire organization. And more vendors will create tools and other solutions with cybersecurity built in, facilitating the process.

Additionally, more companies are considering the importance of the impact of robots and automation on our environment, resulting in sustainability moving front and center in many areas of the world, especially Europe. More companies are moving away from ground-based sources of materials and exploring the entire lifecycle of their products to discover which parts can be reused.

Mobile Robot Deployment Flourishes

While we’re seeing some slowdown in the economy, the growth of e-commerce will necessitate continued adoption of mobile robots in warehouses and distribution centers, as well as in manufacturing factories or even healthcare facilities. The mobile robot sector should continue to show strong growth in the year – and years - ahead. In its latest report, Interact Analysis said mobile robot shipments grew by 53% in 2022 and forecasts “an installed base of over 4 million mobile robots by the end of 2027, 1.5 million of which will be installed in 2027 alone.”

Reshoring Booms

Last but not least, with labor costs rising overseas and the cost of automation overall significantly dropping, reshoring initiatives are growing across U.S. manufacturing. The best way to bring manufacturing back quickly is to automate, which will surely increase the use of automation across the country. By shortening supply lines, reshoring should also help reduce emissions and generate environmental benefits that help make manufacturing more sustainable.

To learn more about these trends, and the automation solutions continually coming to market to help improve productivity, fill the labor shortages and better succeed in today’s competitive market, visit Automate 2023, May 22-25, in Detroit.