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Automate 2023 Analysis: Simplicity and Speed will Further Robotics Uptake

The annual event—put on the Association for Advancing Automation (A3)—has evolved to include solutions of value to multiple industries and processes. These days, it’s not just a show about industrial robots used to “make” or assemble goods in factories. There are many exhibitors offering materials handling solutions, ranging from palletizing, to order fulfillment of finished goods in warehouses. Just a few of the exhibitors I spoke with and who offer robotics used for fulfillment processes include AutoStore, Exotec, ForwardX Robotics, Plus One Robotics, and the Raymond Corporation.

The consensus is that over the shorter term, macro-economic factors like inflation and higher interest rates have slowed the industrial robotics market growth somewhat, though the automotive sector remains strong. What’s more, the long-term outlook remains strong. The challenge of finding and retaining enough labor to stick with manual processes is a long-haul challenge, so companies will continue to look for processes they can automate with robotics. In warehousing, tough physical tasks like truck unloading or palletizing and depalletizing are likely applications, as well as smart piece picking robotics.

In the automotive sector, use of robotics has been strong because carmakers and their suppliers are retooling for electric vehicle (EV) manufacturing and all the components that go into EVs. Another widely noted growth driver for robotics is nearshoring and reshoring in the wake of the massive supply disruptions experienced during the pandemic. The thinking is that more supply chains will mitigate risk by sourcing components or products within North America, and to keep this supply base cost competitive, increased use of robotics will be in order.

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