While self-driving cars have grabbed headlines, thousands of autonomous robots are now running around warehouses, factories, and restaurants. Interactions with robots are becoming the norm. At Davos, robots served cheese to delegates during WEF 2022 and more recently, a 7-year-old had a run in with an ‘angry’ robot at the Moscow Chess Open. The explosive pace of the robotics industry is a result of more sectors, businesses, and industries preferring robotic automation as a solution.
According to a recent report by the International Federation of Robotics, the operational stock of industrial robots increased 13% on average each year (2015-2020) to hit a record of about 3 million units worldwide by The COVID pandemic has amplified the demand for robotic goods-to-person (G2P) systems, and Gartner predicts it will quadruple to help enforce social distancing in warehouses by 2023. With G2P systems, robots deliver the goods to a person who remains in one place. Though many digital solutions solve social distancing in warehouses – robotic solutions are less invasive and easier to implement.
Technology giants reshaping robotics
Billions are being invested by tech giants eager to stay ahead of the curve. In the next five years, the adoption of robotics in warehouses will increase by 50% or more, according to Material Handling Institute. The goal is mechanical orchestration, in which a team of robots, steered by sophisticated software and artificial intelligence, can move boxes and products seamlessly.
“I worry for those owners who don’t do it,” said Erik Nieves, chief executive of Plus One Robotics, which has teamed up with Yaskawa America to bring robotic arms to a FedEx sorting facility in Memphis. “Even today, a lot of warehouses are just racks, a cart and a clipboard. They’re just not able to keep up.”
Amazon accounted for more than 35% of total investment in warehouse automation in the US in 2021 – and recently announced in April a $1 billion Industrial Innovation Fund to support robotics firms like Agility. Walmart also announced its partnership with the automation company Symbotic to bring robots to 25 distribution centers of the retail giant.
HCL Technologies has been expanding its services in the RPA and AI vertical by offering global clients some of the most advanced solutions. HCL’s propriety products Toscana and EXACTO™ have been driving enterprise-wide digital transformation by leveraging the machine learning and artificial intelligence to drive rapid and accurate content digitization especially for the banking sector.
Robotics trends for future
According to Fortune Business Insights, the global industrial robots market will reach $31.13 billion by 2028, up from $14.61 billion in 2020. The intersection of artificial intelligence, machine learning, the internet of things, big data and advanced analytics are driving robots into everyday life. Gartner predicts that through 2024, 50% of supply chain organizations will invest in applications that support artificial intelligence (AI) and advanced analytics (AA) capabilities.
Trust in technology, cost-effectiveness, interoperability, efficiency, and precision will continue to speed up the robotic revolution and drive innovation for the next phase of robotics.
- Robotic Process Automation (RPA): The global robotic process automation (RPA) market is forecast to grow to over 13 billion US dollars by 2030, an increase of over 12 billion compared to 2020, according to Statista. Digital disruptions are driving companies to change their business model. To cater to the ‘right here, right now’ requirements, RPA is commonly used to deal with a large amount of repetitive and menial tasks like manual invoicing, appointment scheduling, and inventory management. By minimizing manual intervention and shortening time-to-market, RPA enhances service delivery, reduces costs, and alleviates major business challenges that organizations face.
- Robotics-as-a-Service: Robotics-as-a-Service solutions (RaaS) are leading the industrial robotics market with the growing demand for cloud-based storage. The deployment of robots is challenging in terms of effort and budget. RaaS, a new business model where the robots are obtainable as a service rather than as a product, addresses this constraint. RaaS is a savior for small businesses, as it is easier to hire a robot employee when humans are in short supply.
- Cloud robotics: Cloud robotics is expected to reach a market valuation of about $3.1 Billion by the end of 2024, according to a report. By leveraging the computational, storage, and communications resources of modern data centers and cloud technologies, cloud robotics removes the overhead required for maintenance and updates, and reduces dependence on custom middleware.
Robotics expanding across multiple sectors
- Real estate: Real estate firms are investing heavily in robotics for developing smart and safe cities. The global Autonomous Mobile Robots (AMR) Market is expected to reach $7.95 billion by 2027. AMRs help expedite building construction, conduct site surveys, and collect building modeling information, as well as being used to deliver goods and conduct routine security patrols.
- Healthcare and Pharmaceuticals: Like advancements in machine learning, analytics, computer vision, robotics in healthcare and pharmaceuticals are transforming surgical procedures, deliveries, research, care giving, and patient care outcomes. HCL’s Laboratory Information Management System (LIMS) solution helped a Cambridge-based global biotechnology company streamline laboratory automation, inventory management, and prevent application outages with Citrix Server Monitoring tool and various data analytics.
- Automotive industry: Robotics has seen massive growth in the automation sector. Collaborative robots (or cobots) have created new possibilities for car and automotive component makers to speed up production, reduce costs, improve quality, and protect their workers from harm. HCL’s EXACTO™ product kicks automation into overdrive for Swedish motorbike manufacturer resulting in 80% accuracy in field level for all documents and reduced Average Handling Time (AHT) by 40%.
- Food and beverage industry: Industrial robots have had a major impact on food production. From sorting and packaging food items to other repetitive work that requires consistency, accuracy, and precision – robots save time and allow workers to focus on other jobs.
- Retail and hospitality: Retail and hospitality companies use robotics to enhance customer experience, by automating inventory processes, way-finding services, cleaning various environments, and assisting customers with their luggage.
- Metal Industry: The metal industry uses RPA to automate dangerous and repetitive tasks such as welding, material handling, machine tending, and bending.