Robots have been a part of automating manufacturing and engineering since the early sixties when George Devol developed the first industrial robot and began manufacturing in 1962. General Motors began using it in its New Jersey plant the same year.
Since then, the rise in the use of robots and later cobots (collaborative robots) from 2008 has increased exponentially, and there is no sign that this will change anytime soon.
The current global situation in robotics
According to the World Robot Report 2021, the use of industrial robots is accelerating rapidly worldwide, with an average of 126 robots per 10,000 employees, almost double the 2015 figure of 66 robots per 10,000 employees.
‘Robot density is the barometer to track the degree of automation adoption in the manufacturing industry around the world’, says Milton Guerry, President of the International Federation of Robotics.
By region, the robot density for Asia/Australia is 134 units, Europe 123 units and the Americas 111 units. China has the most dynamic growth worldwide, rising from 49 units in 2015 to 246 five years later. Still, it is dwarfed by its Asian neighbour, the Republic of Korea, which exceeds the global average seven-fold with 932 units, increasing by 10% each year. Its large electronics and automotive industries, which are extensively automated, explain its dominance.
Though currently second in the number of units, Singapore’s use of robots is growing at a startling 27% per year. Japan, which manufactures 45% of robots used globally, is automating its manufacturing processes rapidly.
The United States’ rise in robot usage is attributed to the modernisation of domestic production facilities and the production of cost-efficient solar panels, and the move towards electric vehicles.
Automation in Europe is led by Germany and Sweden, with the UK below the global average with 101 units.
However, the situation in the UK is expected to change due to the exodus of foreign labour after Brexit, which has already increased the demand for robots and the government tax incentive to modernise the manufacturing industry. The incentive allows companies to claim 130% of capital allowances as tax relief for plant and machinery investments.
What are the trends pushing the growth of robots in industry?
Worldwide robotics is an industry surging ahead, with year-on-year growth of 13% between 2015 and 2020. So, what is fuelling this ongoing expansion in the use of robots and cobots?
- New Industries – As robots evolve, their range of applications increases, making them suitable for new industries. An example is construction, which uses robot arms to fit drywall to ceilings. This is a safer way to install drywall and reduces injuries to construction workers. It is also faster and less expensive than traditional methods. In addition, labour shortages following the pandemic and the ‘great resignation’ have prompted many industries to consider automating specific processes that a human employee had previously carried out. This shift to automation is evident across delivery and logistics, construction and agriculture and will continue to increase as the ability of robots and cobots evolve.
- Easier to use – as robots and cobots evolve, their user interfaces and software improve, making them easier to set up and use. Robot manufacturers that develop the software that drives their robots and cobots, like GEKU, will also offer customisation and training in the use of the hardware and software, ensuring the end-users can benefit from the automation quickly and painlessly. For entry-level users in new industries who are searching for a cost-effective solution, cobots could be the answer. Geku cobots start from as little as £16,000 and offer a range of payloads between 3 kg and 20 kg.
- Ongoing education and up-skilling – As the profile of factory working changes from dull, dirty and dangerous tasks to those tasks being automated, employees will need the education and training to up-skill and add value in other business areas. In addition to in-house training, many organisations are springing up to help provide the education that will be required for the new data-driven production lines of the future. Many robot manufacturers are amongst these training organisations, providing training in operating and working with robots and automation.
- Securing production through automation – A revealing statistic from the US shows how automation is assisting American businesses to get back to serving their customers. In the third quarter of 2021, orders for robots increased by 35% over the same period in 2020 as manufacturers strove to overcome staffing issues and supply chain disruption. In the UK, automation is increasing for similar reasons post-pandemic and because of Brexit.
- Supporting Digital Automation – the emphasis for 2022 and beyond will be on data collected from intelligent automation processes and analysed to make better, informed decisions. As AI for robotics matures, learning robots will become mainstream, and we can expect larger deployments of these technologies in the future.
Predictions for the future
As robots become increasingly smarter by utilising AI and machine learning, the industries that have adopted robots will inevitably become smarter. Places like manufacturing facilities, warehouses and distribution centres will be using industrial robots to operate faster, more efficiently and more accurately while eliminating inconsistencies.
Robotic Process Automation (RPA) is expected to surge in 2022. RPA is software that lets businesses automate operational processes previously carried out manually. RPA is most often used in sectors that deal with a large number of repetitive tasks. An example is the healthcare sector, where RPA automates inventory management, invoicing and appointment scheduling.
One problem for SME manufacturers to add robotics to their manufacturing and benefit from automation is the high initial investment involved. However, this has been mitigated to some extent by low-cost cobots that are available and as a Service offering that are subscription-based and open up the market to many more small manufacturers. In addition, Robotics as a Service (RaaS) often includes analytics, monitoring, and preventative maintenance as part of the package.
Geku for robots and cobots
GEKU, a leading supplier of industrial robots, can now provide a range of Cobots from dexterous and nimble at the smaller end of the scale to larger Cobots that can lift and stack items or unload vehicles.
GEKU’s Cobots are suitable for businesses who want to begin their automation journey without the prohibitive costs of traditional industrial robots.
With the skills gap that currently exists in manufacturing and other industries, Cobots may be a way to transform production processes without significantly impacting your human employees.
Several cobots are available ‘off-the-shelf’, giving the flexibility to suit various needs. They have endless applications when customised with multiple tools like cameras, suction cups, and welding tips.
If you’d like to learn more about Geku cobots and see what they are capable of doing, we’d be happy to come to your premises to demonstrate our cutting-edge range of cobots or visit our facility in Kent to see for yourself how versatile and safe our cobots are and the impact they could have on your productivity and profitability.
Call to book a demonstration.