Robotics

Collaborative Robots Rise to North America’s Manufacturing Challenges

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By Bryan Bird, Area PresidentNorth AmericaUniversal Robots

For all kinds of businesses in North America, especially those in the manufacturing sector, 2022 was anything but ordinary. Or boring. Or easy. ‘Labor shortage’ and ‘Supply chain problems’ being the phrases that sum up the most significant challenges for the industry. Challenges that continue until 2023.

Irecently survey of the National Manufacturers Association, 75% off manufacturing companies note that their biggest challenge is ‘attract and retain a quality workforce’. And when looking latest statistics, you understand why; Bureau of Labor & Statistics estimation that there are around 644,000 jobs open in the manufacturing sector – almost 50% more than pre-pandemic figures. That the national unemployment rate has not this low yet since Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin walk on the moon in 1969.

Supply chain challenges are another struggle for manufacturers in the US and Canada. And while supply-side issues have dominated headlines, tremendous pressure has also been placed on the demand side, meaning manufacturers are struggling to match their resources to rapidly changing product mixes and growing demand. On top of this comes inflation which, combined with rising interest rates, makes borrowing more expensive.

Isn’t there good news, you might ask? COVID is now a pandemic of manageable scale, supply chain issues are improving every month, and inflation is down more than 50% from its peak.

In addition, reshoring initiatives are gaining ground around North America as businesses and policy makers at the state and federal levels recognize the importance of having a strong domestic manufacturing sector.

In fact, about 62% of manufacturers have started reshoring or are close to shore up their production capacity, according to one report by Deloitte, based on a survey of 305 executives in transportation and manufacturing companies, mostly in the US, with annual revenues of $500 million to more than $50 billion.

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