Robotics systems have revolutionized the way companies operate. The systems’ increased sophistication has made these robots flexible and capable of performing complex tasks with dexterity. The North American robotics market has seen steady growth over the past few years. During the first nine months of 2016, the demand for robotics in North America reached ~24,000 ($1.3 billion in value terms, up 3%), an increase of ~7% over the same period in 2015. Currently, there are ~269,000 robots in use in North American factories. Only Japan & China utilize more.
The advancement of robotic systems, coupled with a steady decrease in costs, has broadened areas of applications across industries. Traditionally, the automotive sector has been the key driver of robotic demand; however, the share of non-automotive sector is now rising. In North America, the penetration of robots in non-automotive sectors rose 5% during 2015, with the semiconductors and electronics sector accounting for the highest number (35%) of the total non-automotive demand.
The new wave of robotic automation is expected to embrace the back office space. The Robotic Process Automation (RPA) is an application which has a robot (or a software) configured; it captures and interprets other applications. In the knowledge process industry, RPA is used for processing a transaction, manipulating data and triggering responses. In IT processes, however, RPA is used to manage functions such as access management, request management, availability management, monitoring, incident management and problem management, to name a few. The companies which extensively use labor to perform high-volume and highly transactional functions would benefit the most from RPA, as RPA would enhance their capabilities and help them save money as well as time.
Nonetheless, we cannot overlook the fact that the essence of business is in creativity, and only human beings can develop ideas to enhance processes and portfolios. The concept of “Collaborative Robots – Cobotics” is an amalgamation of robotics, cognitive technology and biomechanics. The intention is to complement workers, rather than replace them, in ergonomically challenging tasks.
What’s there for procurement?
There is no denying the fact that the composition of industrial workforce is changing with the rise in robotics. Robot implementation is expected to grow even further, with the introduction of more sophisticated and advanced robots. The new age of robotics will perform a wide variety of tasks apart from the big manufacturing assembly lines. Robots are beginning to be used in precision agriculture for weed control and harvesting using GPS technology. Robots are also being used in nursing roles, helping patients out of bed and supporting stroke victims in regaining control of their limbs. Advanced robots would also enable organizations to update their products more frequently, as well as make organizations more responsive to the needs of consumers, i.e., they would be equipped to offer customized products without any (or minimal) price escalations.
In short, robotics systems are set to transform the businesses across almost all industries.