Due to the pandemic in 2020, digitalisation grew exponentially across the globe. From technologies to support remote working to robots to assist in temperature tracking, many individuals and companies adopted technologies to quickly adapt to the drastic lifestyle changes.
As we move on into 2021, many of us are probably wondering which of the robotic trends in 2020 were merely temporary by-products of the pandemic, and which ones are here to stay for the long run.
We take a look at 5 robotics industry trends that will continue gaining ground in 2021.
1. Automating warehouse workflows with robots
The e-commerce industry grew significantly due to the lockdowns, travel bans and closure of retail stores. By April 2020, at the beginning stages of the spread of Covid-19, the e-commerce industry had already seen a 129% year-on-year increase in the U.S.
E-commerce faced growth frictions in the past, largely due to the stubborn consumer behaviours such as those preferring to shop offline, and those unwilling to adopt digital payment methods. That has since changed during the pandemic, with 150 million people shopping online for the first time in 2020. Industry insiders are expecting that the number of e-commerce consumers will continue to grow in the years to come.
With the sudden increase in consumers, logistics players have to quickly meet the demands of the market. Warehouses need to be able to pack and deliver goods quicker than ever. As a result, many logistics players are beginning to look into automating warehouse workflows, such as the picking of goods from palettes. In fact, ABI Research predicts that the shipment of automated forklifts will increase from 1,000 in 2020 to 156,000 in 2030.
The repetitive and mundane tasks can be easily automated with the help of robots, thereby freeing up extra manpower to manage the overall operations in the warehouse.
2. Increasing popularity of Cobots (collaborative robots)
As the name suggests, cobots (aka collaborative robots), are meant to be used as a collaborative tool with a human counterpart to complete a task.
In 2020, disruptions to traditional work arrangements affected all business, regardless of industry or size. Many smaller manufacturers have turned to cobots to complete tasks with a reduced workforce. As smaller manufacturers usually have a less developed robotic ecosystem, they would prefer cobots that are easier to deploy, setup and program. Cobots are the perfect entry-level technology for first-time robot users. Hence, industry experts project that cobots will take up 29% of the entire market.
3. Using robots to protect workplace safety
The number of workplace safety regulations have certainly increased since 2020, in a bid to keep employees safe from the infection. The pandemic has created more awareness on the need to uphold workplace safety, and also shifted the mindset of industries that had little workplace hazards pre-pandemic.
More than just using robots to clean and disinfect work areas regularly, the pandemic acted as a catalyst for companies to think about new ways where they can protect worker’s health and safety, whilst increasing productivity and efficiency.
One such example is the use of mobile robot Spot to measure radiation levels and create 3D heat maps of radiation in the Chernobyl nuclear disaster site. Robots can also be deployed to collect data in places that are hazardous for humans, such as underground locations or high temperature environments. The use of robots in such situations helps to track important data that can increase operational efficiency, whilst protecting the safety of workers.
4. Data, data, data
This leads us to our next point on data collection. The pandemic accelerated the growth of digitalisation in 2020, which helped open the doors to data analytics tools for many businesses.
If there were any manufacturers who were still on the fence about implementing data analytics tools in their factories, they certainly would have been converted in 2020. Data analytics is a natural progression from the implementation of digital tools that could capture large amounts of data in real time. It goes without saying that data analytics empowers businesses with the knowledge of the inefficiencies within the plant, thereby creating opportunities for improvements in operational productivity and effectiveness.
5. Robots in the medical industry
According to experts, the healthcare industry has only explored the tip of the iceberg when it comes to robotic surgical applications. There is immense untapped market potential in the healthcare industry when it comes to robotics. From robots increasing surgical accuracy, to the use of automation to increase lab test efficiencies, there are many unexplored possibilities for robotic applications.
There are many dimensions in the healthcare field where robots can come into the picture. The medical field is definitely an industry that will outlast the temporary trends of the pandemic.
These are our top 5 industry trends for the robotic industry in 2021. We expect these trends to not only grow significantly this year, but to see sustained growth beyond 2021 as well. Robotics and automation remain to be a relatively new technology for many - it is an exciting time to witness its development in the next decade to come.