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2022 – The 12 months of Automation


February 24, 2022

Supply:  Dr Paul Rivers, CEO of Steering Automation | Manufacturing Tomorrow 

Everyone seems to be fed up of listening to concerning the pandemic and the catastrophic influence it has had on the world. However the truth is, though statistics affirm Covid-19 is waning, the rise of recent variants together with Omicron means the virus remains to be very a lot current and dealing its means by way of the inhabitants, persevering with to depart its destruction behind it. 

This, mixed with the consequences of Brexit, have dragged UK companies into unknown territory in a ‘sink or swim’ type situation. Many companies have folded, hundreds of jobs have been misplaced, however there may be an upside to this – many have managed to experience the wave and are available out the opposite aspect with a stronger, extra resilient enterprise mannequin that may drive them ahead regardless of unsure instances.

One trade that has benefitted from this adversity is the automation trade, with Covid-19 driving firms to speed up their plans to include intralogistics automation and robotics into their enterprise in a bid to guard themselves from additional disruption. 

So, what have we discovered from our experiences of 2021 and the way can we use this foresight to drive us into a brand new, future-proofed period in automation? Right here Dr Paul Rivers, CEO of Steering Automation, seems again at classes discovered and descriptions his predictions for 2022 and past.

This 12 months we now have seen intralogistics automation and Autonomous Cellular Robots (AMRs) turn into pretty commonplace, whether or not by way of alternative or necessity as consciousness of its advantages have grown. In our 2021 analysis to discover the significance of intralogistics automation inside firms which have a warehouse, fulfilment, manufacturing or distribution operation, we discovered that 25% of firms we surveyed mentioned the pandemic had accelerated their plans to deploy automation with three quarters planning to spend money on the following 12 months. Final 12 months noticed a gentle adoption of automation tempo, nevertheless, this was not on account of elevated demand  – however really in response to the operational challenges companies have been going through. These embody employees shortages, social distancing necessities, supply points in addition to materials and gear shortages. 

Air and sea freight had been the primary to really feel the consequences of Covid-19 because of the enforcement of strict journey restrictions; this was then exacerbated by the dearth of HGV drivers in a position to ship items and naturally important manufacturing elements have additionally been briefly provide on account of factories shutting down or working at lowered output. 

Additional, the pandemic has seen many companies transitioning to a extra versatile, distant working mannequin with workers being given the chance to work partly at house. This has created additional issues for employers as staff can now think about distant alternatives additional afield, making the worker market much more difficult. The addition of strict social distancing tips has additionally induced its personal appreciable points to incorporate a 2m separation between workers, zoning of areas, elevated sanitation amenities, staggered and complicated shift and break patterns, a rise in private gear and further break areas, entrances and exits. 

It’s a minefield of necessities and hurdles to beat and a part of the rationale why so many logistics and manufacturing companies specifically have embraced automation final 12 months. Nonetheless, the outcomes of our survey show automation has benefitted staff too and has helped shift their usually destructive perspective to a extra optimistic outlook that has helped companies make change extra shortly and efficiently. 

Simply over half (54%) of companies imagine automation has had a optimistic influence on warehouse and manufacturing plant workers together with much less repetitive and strenuous handbook work (49%), providing staff the prospect to upskill (39%) and by decreasing the reliance on bodily choosing exercise, flexibility throughout the enterprise is elevated offering aid for overworked employees (40%). 

It’s clear that we now have discovered a lot in the course of the previous 12 months. 2021 was a 12 months of change, wrestle and innovation with UK companies turning into much less risk-averse, extra technologically savvy and higher outfitted to outlive the uncertainties of this 12 months. So, what does 2022 maintain for these industries?

UK companies are reaching a extra snug place the place there may be some data of the added necessities and challenges of operating a enterprise throughout and after a pandemic. This implies they can make clearer selections with confidence. The manufacturing and logistics panorama has modified irrevocably and companies should adapt accordingly to make sure they maintain tempo with trade and their rivals. Listed here are 5 the explanation why international automation will form enterprise transferring ahead:

Transferring up the enterprise agenda 

Our trade survey discovered that 73% of these surveyed believed automation to be business-critical transferring ahead. Automation is starting to achieve the board room desk, reaching the C-suite who at the moment are embracing automation having realised its potential for driving their enterprise ahead. Of their Predictions 2022 weblog, Forrester summarises it in a nutshell, predicting that these absolutely embracing automation –will ‘obliterate – not merely beat – the competitors’. 

Creation of a worldwide automation platform

In recognition of this new, elevated positioning, Automation know-how suppliers whether or not within the RPA, BPA or AI house are vying to create a unified, enterprise-wide platform that mixes know-how, robotic and human knowledge and processes taking the worldwide, industrial automation market to the following degree. This isn’t stunning, contemplating its market worth – in accordance with Statista, the automation trade is estimated to be value $207bn by 2022 with the UK taking a $2bn share of this.

Main the best way with AMRs in 2022

The logistics trade specifically, has been predicted to be the quickest rising sector for Automated Cellular Robots (AMRs) and Automated Guided Autos (AGVs) in 2022. Widespread drivers for this are rising prices and the acute labour scarcity – there are 2.5 million logistics roles within the UK, a lot of which stay unfilled. Wages are due to this fact pushed up and accompanied by the necessity for versatile manufacturing consistent with market situations. Analysis by Work together Evaluation reveals that robotics and software program merchandise accounted for 51% of all new product launches in 2021 with piece choosing robots predicted to have an annual progress fee of 90% by 2025. This isn’t stunning contemplating the continued stress on provide chains to ensure next-day or same-day supply in response to a pointy shift in direction of e-commerce over the previous 18 months.

Addressing the work power deficit

The employee scarcity we’re presently enduring shall be right here for some time but, with many trade critics believing it would really worsen earlier than it improves. Service-led roles and handbook roles together with warehouse jobs shall be more durable to fill on account of their bodily intensive nature and decrease wage, due to this fact increasingly more firms will spend money on automation to deal with this. Not less than 35% of service firms will introduce bodily robotic staff, altering the handbook employee panorama eternally. This superior hybrid workforce mannequin will get the most effective out of the human and the robotic relationship, utilizing assets extra effectively, dashing up workflow whereas decreasing human error. Probably the most superior robotic staff – known as ‘Cobots’, that’s, collaborative robots, work in partnership with people, usually inside a shared house. These Cobots have superior enabling applied sciences similar to machine intelligence, elevated efficiency capabilities and superior mobility and we’ll hear increasingly more about these transferring into subsequent 12 months as phrase spreads of the enterprise enhancements they, in partnership with human staff can supply.

Elevated demand for business premises

Though the home-working mannequin will proceed as a profitable format to function inside, many industries together with manufacturing and logistics require workers to work from a central location. It will undoubtedly have a long-lasting influence on workspace design with future layouts being significantly completely different from these pre-pandemic codecs. This in flip, will inevitably influence on demand for business premises and drive up costs in future years. The jury remains to be out on what this new format will appear like however undoubtedly it would proceed to evolve over the following 5 years as we study to work inside a changeable atmosphere.

Conclusion

It’s clear that 2022 shall be a 12 months of great innovation with automation rising to the highest of the enterprise agenda. We’re undoubtedly coming into a brand new period, one that’s irreversible – we’re set on a path of automation to not solely defend ourselves from continued adversity however as a result of it makes sound enterprise sense for the longer term.

There are nonetheless many hurdles forward but when we are able to negotiate these, companies could be assured they’ll endure one other pandemic with construction and defence. However what of these which might be reticent to affix the journey in direction of automation? Properly, if Forrester is true, they may fall behind whereas these adopting these developments will soar.

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