PROGRESS IN FACTORY AUTOMATION IS POISED TO DRIVE SIGNIFICANT OPPORTUNITIES FOR INDUSTRIES AND TO HAVE BROAD IMPACTS ON THE ECONOMY AND SOCIETY AS A WHOLE. These fascinating and rapidly evolving innovations raise key questions for the future. What needs to happen to enhance human/robot collaboration in factories? What role will software play in future factories? Will robots reduce or increase human employment opportunities? How will business models evolve? And what broader economic and social implications could this create?
In this paper, we answer these questions by profiling three key areas in the future of factory automation:
- Collaborative robotics: We explore the current opportunities, limitations, and potential solutions of human/robot collaboration on the factory floor.
- Industrial software revolution: We highlight the impacts of smarter software, such as greater flexibility and predictive maintenance. In addition, we explore the potential for changing business models and consolidation within the sector.
- Economic and social implications: We discuss the labor market and social implications of higher levels of automation, including thoughts on robot taxes and reskilling.
Finally, we share the investment implications these compelling innovations present.
Collaborative robotics has humans and robots working side by side on the factory floor. There is huge untapped potential for automation on factory floors, in our view, as manufacturing has thus far only embraced robotics at a low level. If we use robot density as a proxy for automation adoption, there are currently just 110 robots per 10,000 factory workers on average.1 Notably, there is a relatively high concentration of robotics in one manufacturing industry: automobiles. One-third of the three million robots installed globally are in auto manufacturing; as technology advances, more industries may be able to move in this direction.