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With annual revenue in the US robotics market expected grew by 5.62% (CAGR), generate a market volume of over $9 billion by 2027, John Bubnikovich, ABB The President of the US Robotics Division, made several predictions about the main trends in robotics automation in the US for 2023 and beyond.
“The impact of the US labor shortage is increasingly being felt by many businesses as they struggle to keep pace with customer demand, even with the potential weakness of the US economy in the short term,” Bubnikovich said. “This, combined with global political uncertainty, fragile supply chains and rising material costs, in addition to the growing trend of reshoring and nearshoring operations, means more companies are adopting robotic automation to maximize flexibility, build resilience and adapt production processes to more sustainable. ”
Trend 1 – Demand for robots will increase in response to long-term labor shortages and spikes in re- and nearshoring
The impact of the labor shortage is clearly being felt across a wide range of industries and will continue well beyond 2023 as the effects of an aging population and reluctance to take low paying, boring, dirty and dangerous jobs increase. The Congressional Budget Office recently predicted that the size of the US workforce will grow by just 0.2% annually from 2024 to 2031, and by 2030, it is estimated that more than 2.1 million US manufacturing jobs will be unfilled, according to a study by Deloitte and The Manufacturing Institute. This will hinder economic growth and make it necessary for companies to find new ways to close the labor gap.
Demand for robots will be especially strong in countries where companies plan to return to or near shore their operations to help increase the stability of their supply chains in the face of global uncertainty. In a survey of 1,610 companies conducted by ABB Robotics in 2022, 70% of US businesses said they plan to return to or approach their operations, with 62% indicating they will invest in robotic automation within the next three years.
“While most of the mainstream attention is focused on the impact automation takes on jobs, robots will increasingly perform physically stressful tasks that people are reluctant to do, helping to reduce industrial and commercial labor shortages,” said Bubnikovich. “Continuous advances in ease of use and flexible performance of robots, including the development of larger payload collaborative models such as ABB’s GoFa and SWIFTI cobots, mean companies can address skills gaps and better utilize their existing workforce.
“We will also see robots taking on tasks in new sectors such as food processing and healthcare. For example, the ABB robot is operating at the White Castle frozen hamburger factory in Louisville, Kentucky, where a fully automated packaging system featuring three different types of robots handling three different functions. And, in University of Texas Medical Branch (UTMB) in Houston, TexasABB robots are revolutionizing antibody research by automating the testing process, increasing the number of tests performed per day from 15 to 1,000. We will see robots taking on more roles in similar settings in the future as labor shortages continue to impact many businesses,” said Bubnikovich.
Trend 2 – AI and autonomous technologies will make robots easier to use, integrate and access – opening up additional opportunities in new industries
ABB’s recent development of Visual Simultaneous Localization and Mapping (Visual SLAM) technology will increase the productivity, flexibility, and speed of ABB’s suite of Autonomous Mobile Robots (AMR). Using AI-enabled 3D vision to perform location and mapping functions, Visual SLAM enables AMR to make intelligent navigational decisions based on their environment. Solutions like these allow manufacturers to move from traditional production lines to scalable and integrated modular production cells while optimizing parts delivery across facilities.
Ongoing developments in artificial intelligence are strengthening autonomous grip and positioning, which will widen the range of tasks robots can perform. Greater use of AI in robotics helps with tasks such as selecting non-uniform objects, which are on display at Burrtec Waste Industries’ materials recovery facility in Riverside, California. Here, ABB’s vision-enabled delta robot and AI scan material on a waste stream conveyor, picking up various contaminants from paths that the robot has learned are not recyclable.
At the same time, the continued simplification of the software and controllers used to program the robots will further reduce barriers to adoption by removing the need for specialized skills.
“Over the last few years, Artificial Intelligence’s capabilities in the robotics space have increased significantly,” said Bubnikovich. “As technology matures and becomes less complex, enabling ease of use and many applications, robotics will penetrate segments beyond traditional manufacturing and distribution, such as electronics, healthcare, e-commerce, pharmaceuticals, and food service.”
Trend 3 – More specialist partnerships between industry and educators will power the new era of automation
With more and more companies using robots, there is a growing need for workers to learn new skills that will allow them to thrive in an automated environment. Achieving this will require a cooperative and multi-generational approach, from schools, colleges and universities to SMEs and support associations to deliver training.
“Businesses of the future will need employees who are experienced in implementing automation to perform various processes,” said Bubnikovich. “As robots become more prevalent in factories, warehouses and other environments, there will be increasing partnerships between robot OEMs, system integrators, manufacturers and educators to equip people with the skills needed for the future of automation. There are already more than 150 examples of ABB’s partnerships with educators in the United States, where our robots, RobotStudio programming and simulation software, and Augmented Reality and Virtual Reality tools are used to teach students of all ages the skills needed to program and use robots. automation.”
“Disruption and uncertainty are driving new business models, forcing companies to think differently about how they operate. Scalable, flexible and capable of handling an increasingly broad range of tasks, robots are becoming a new paradigm in making businesses more resilient in responding to these external forces,” said Bubnikovich.
“As all of this unfolds, the successful implementation of robotic automation will require layers of quality human engagement to achieve the best results. As new technologies continue to make robots easier to deploy and deploy, we see 2023 as the year of opportunity that will allow companies and their workforces to reach new levels of productivity, efficiency and flexibility.”
ABB’s investment to support the future of robotics
ABB is supporting the anticipated robotics growth in the United States by investing more than $22 million and creating highly skilled jobs in manufacturing, innovation, and distribution operations.
Ongoing robotics-specific investment projects across the US include:
- Auburn Hills, Michigan: Expansion of North America’s robotics headquarters and manufacturing facilities as more customers turn to automation to build resilience while increasing efficiency and flexibility as part of production close-ups and reshoring. The $20 million investment will create 72 jobs and be completed by the end of 2023.
- Atlanta, Georgia: Opening of packaging and logistics facilities for end-to-end robotic automation solutions in the warehousing and distribution, retail and logistics industries. This $2 million investment will open in 2023 and create around 15 jobs.
- Houston, Texas: ongoing investment into ABB Robotics’ health care & life sciences center at Texas Medical Center in Houston. Center focus on development non-surgical medical Robotics systems used across the US and globally in collaboration with medical staff, scientists, and engineers in dedicated facilities on the Texas Medical Center innovation campus.