Unlocking the Industrial Potential of Robotics and Automation
Across the industrial world, companies are betting big on robotics and automation. For many, automated systems will account for 25 percent of capital spending over the next five years, results from the 2022 McKinsey Global Industrial Robotics Survey show. Industrial-company executives expect to see benefits in output quality, efficiency, and uptime. However, many remain wary of the challenge, with the cost of hardware and a lack of internal experience at the top of their list of concerns.
Among the industrial sectors surveyed, the biggest spender on automation over the next five years is set to be retail and consumer goods, with 23 percent of respondents from that sector planning to spend more than $500 million. That compares with 15 percent in food and beverage and 8 percent in automotive. For logistics and fulfillment players, automation will represent 30 percent or more of their capital spending in the next five years—the highest share among industrial segments surveyed.
With billions of dollars expected to be outlaid for automation over the coming years, industrial companies need to ensure that they get implementation right. Many are daunted, the survey results show, and this state of affairs offers a market-winning opportunity for technology providers. The most successful providers will be the ones that can help industrial companies overcome challenges, including those related to technology selection, implementation planning, and acquisition of the skill set required for rollout on a larger scale.
Some aspects of productive activity are more amenable to automation than others are, with routine tasks at the head of the line. Activities such as picking, packing, sorting, movement from point to point, and quality assurance are already automated to some extent, and these will continue to see heavy investment over the coming years. Conversely, activities such as assembly, stamping, surface treatment, and welding, all of which require high levels of human input, are less likely to be automated in the short to medium terms
Where operations can be automated, the benefits include the abilities to work faster and at a higher capacity, as well as to provide high quality. In addition, there are upsides in cost, operational uptime, and safety. On the other hand, environmental and sustainability factors are likely to be less positively affected.
A standout message from the survey is that automation is not easy. Participants report that the primary challenges to adoption include the capital cost of robots and a company’s general lack of experience with automation, cited by 71 percent and 61 percent of respondents, respectively. Some say that business confidence in technology is low, leading to challenges around conviction and funding. Moreover, respondents’ expectations of production and reliability gains through automation are offset by the belief that such gains will eliminate jobs and may affect existing contracts. In fact, that is not the case since automation typically leads to changes in workplace roles rather than the creation of redundancies.