Manufacturers are looking for ways to operate more efficiently, increase revenues, and hold onto more margin. However, they’ve faced challenges that have made those goals more difficult to reach. Kirthikka Devi Venkataram of Women Who Code, says, “The industry met headwinds from supply chain disruptions, skilled labor shortage, innovation challenges to meet company-set net-zero emissions goals and by post-COVID-19 semiconductors shortage creating a tough state of production and marketing for finished goods.”
To meet their business goals while overcoming these challenges and building greater agility for the future, enterprises are implementing robotics and industrial automation. MarketsandMarkets predicts a 13.8 percent CAGR in this space, with market values set to increase from $17 billion in 2023 to $32.5 billion by 2028. One particular area of growth is in cobots, which can help employees work more productively. They can also help move heavy products more easily and with little intervention from employees.
Venkataram also looks for manufacturers to deploy more intelligent systems. For example, she cited Augury’s The State of Production Health 2023 survey that revealed that 74 percent of food and beverage manufacturers planned to invest more in artificial intelligence (AI) in 2023. Furthermore, 37 percent believe AI can help improve quality, yield, and throughput, and 26 percent can assist with controlling materials and energy costs.
Josh Schwartz-Dodek, CTO of Sojo Industries, says, “The point of automation is to gain efficiency in manufacturing processes. When we push boundaries and innovate with automation, we discover new ways to increase production output, cut costs, improve quality, deliver products faster and maintain better product traceability.”
Schwartz-Dodek explains that robotics allows faster, consistent production, enabling manufacturers to spread costs across more units and offer more competitive pricing to customers.
“The repetitive and consistent nature of robotics reduces the risk for non-conformance compared to manual processes, leading to more time spent producing and optimizing and less time rectifying quality errors,” Schwartz-Dodek says. “As we implement innovative automated solutions, we eliminate wasteful touches in the supply chain, reducing emissions by having fewer trucks on the road and getting finished products to the consumer faster and in less steps.”
“Automated flow of goods leads to better flow of data, adding reliability to track and trace solutions that benefit partners across the supply chain. Ultimately, not only do suppliers and manufacturers see the benefits of automation, but so do consumers,” he says.
The Manufacturer’s New State of the Art
Venkataram looks for manufacturers to restructure to create smart factories with robotic systems and Industrial Metaverse to compensate for the persistent labor shortage. “Additionally, manufacturers will use generative AI for aftermarket services and supply chain management, contextualizing using digital twins, robotic process automation (RPA) in routine activities and investment in renewable energy reservoirs like fusion-energy projects,” Venkataram says.
Robotics can also enhance safety. Manufacturers can deploy robots to perform tasks that present dangers to humans, improving their safety records and enhancing employee’s satisfaction and morale. Furthermore, by digitalizing processes, manufacturers can collect and analyze more data that help them improve processes, product quality, and customer satisfaction.
“Navigating the path ahead, significant investment towards reorganizing their operations will see a dynamic change in the industry’s economic returns in a shorter period, improving business outcomes,” she says.
Takeaways for ISVs
It’s essential for ISVs developing solutions for the manufacturing space to recognize the trend toward robotics and automation. Many enterprises see reimagining their manufacturing processes as the key to competitiveness. However, many enterprises lack the in-house resources with expertise to develop these solutions.
ISVs who can meet this demand can help manufacturers move closer to their vision of efficient, cost-effective, and safe operations that result in the highest, and most consistent product quality. As a result, ISVs will also elevate their brands in a market hungry for effective solutions.