How Robotics and Automation are Reshaping the Economic Landscape
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How Robotics and Automation are Reshaping the Economic Landscape

By Jan Janick, CTO, Benchmark

Did you grow up dreaming about a future with flying cars and responsive robot maids? With the autonomous vehicle programs in beta tests and at-home independent robot vacuum cleaners, we are progressing towards this future, showcasing how robotics and automation are rapidly and significantly impacting our lives.

With the increased demand for efficiency and higher profit margins, companies are investing in new ways to accelerate and automate increasingly complex processes. A 2018 report by market research firm IDC predicted that by 2019, 25% of mobile robotic deployments would include the ability to add on modular components enabling multiple users on the same mobile platform, thus delivering up to 30% productivity and efficiency gains. Practically, every company across the world is exploring new ways to integrate advanced robotics into their workflow.

So, while we aren’t experiencing the life of the Jetsons, we see some very innovative breakthroughs in the robotics sector. For example, Amazon acquired Kiva Systems (now known as Amazon Robotics) in 2012 for $775 million. After this acquisition, Amazon expanded the use of robots to their 25+ distribution centers with over 80,000 robots deployed. These robots carry out the mundane, repetitive tasks that help deliver packages to the consumer faster and significantly fuel Amazon’s global empire. Continuous improvements and updates are being made to allow these robots to automate additional processes and tasks.

"Robotics OEMs will see increased profits, and non-technical employees will see increased opportunities for training and advancement"

Similarly, some of our facilities across the world at Benchmark have implemented collaborative robots. Performing precision adhesive application, laser engraving, and assisting in box build operations, these robots are freeing up a significant amount of time for our employees, increasing efficiency across the board, and improving overall output.

As more companies are exploring the integration of robots, the industry is experiencing massive growth in several sub-sectors, including industrial, autonomous ground vehicles, medical, collaborative, exoskeleton, agricultural, and warehouse logistics. According to data from MarketsandMarkets Research, these sectors are experiencing compound annual growth rates of between 12-57% respectively. Industrial robotics, in particular, is estimated to grow and become a $65.4 billion industry by 2021.

Moreover, while many doomsday analysts predict a significant loss of jobs due to robotics and automation, one of the most significant drivers of robotics integration in the U.S. is our low unemployment rates. Warehouse facilities operated by large companies such as Amazon and Kroger are investing in robotics and automation due to low unemployment rates and the need to restock shelves and efficiently fulfill orders.

I see the robotics industry going a different way as it pertains to the U.S. workforce. I predict this industry will have a massive impact on growth prospects for the labor market. Large companies are beginning to invest in their workforce to facilitate the addition of automation and robotics. Just take a look at Amazon’s $700 million commitment to training 100,000 employees for higher-skilled jobs. Every company investing in robotics is going to be required to make this same type of investment in its employees to operate these systems if they wish to remain competitive.

The robotics and automation industry continues to contribute to significant global economic growth. As the market demand continues, companies who incorporate robots into their processes will experience increased efficiency, reduced overhead, improved quality output, and overall, resulting in better-run facilities. Robotics OEMs will see increased profits, and non-technical employees will see increased opportunities for training and advancement. As we see, new technologies like 5G come into play to spark the Industry 4.0 revolution, this progression will only continue.

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