Robotics has progressed from a world of building blocks and moved to real-world computing. Robots are getting progressively integrated into several types of production lines, which is driving industrial robotics market growth. According to Grand View Research, the industrial robotics market is expected to reach $41.20 billion by 2025. The rising awareness of the benefits of industrial robots—which include cost effectiveness, quality assurance, optimized production efficiency, and safe working conditions in hazardous environments—offers positive opportunities for market growth.
|Industrial robots are expected to grow in nearly all applications. (Image source: Fanuc)|
AI + ML + Industrial Robotics
Artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) capabilities have gradually made their way into industrial robotics technology, leading to the adoption of collaborative robots or co-bots in various application areas. Co-bots enable direct interaction with a human within a defined collaborative workspace. Co-bots have opened up a huge number of possibilities for task automation. Yet these can go unfulfilled if the robotic system is not easy to program or is not affordable or flexible enough. The flexibility of Universal Robots' (UR) system has led to UR robots being deployed in a wide range of application areas. Some of them are listed below:
- Pick and Place: Implementation of such a co-bot in a pick and place application can be done with minimal cost and disruption to production, as it can often slot straight into an existing setup. Companies often rotate workers on monotonous pick and place tasks every couple of hours when productivity starts to drop. Co-bots help in maintaining consistent productivity rates across multiple shifts.
- Machine Tending: As a manual process, machine tending requires workers to stand for hours on end, placing the employee in contact with a potentially dangerous machine. With the addition of a co-bot, the employee can handle a wide range of machines and supply products in large batches instead of individually managing the process, thereby increasing productivity.
- Packaging and Palletizing: The UR systems come fully equipped with interfaces to integrate with existing production lines without the need to pay for additional add-on features, thereby reducing the cost of implementation.
- Quality Inspection: Co-bots in quality inspection can potentially automate the inspection system and can be significantly cheaper to deploy into the workspace.
The combination of AI, ML, and robotics is the recipe for success, according to Fanuc Corp. The company is engaged in converting robots, which are focused on doing a single function of thinking and working according to a need and situation, by integrating thinking abilities into the robots. In October 2016, Fanuc collaborated with NVIDIA to implement AI on the FANUC Intelligent Edge Link and Drive (FIELD) system. That system is intended to foster robotics productivity and bring new capabilities to automated factories globally. FANUC uses a variety of NVIDIA GPUs and deep learning software to enable AI in the cloud for robotic training.
According to Kiyonori Inaba, general manager of Fanuc, “Advances in artificial intelligence have allowed robots to learn, watch, and expand their capabilities. Deep learning has also cut down time-intensive robot behavior programming.”
Industrial Robotics Everywhere
The robotics industry is very lucrative and currently has gained traction over a wide application area as companies have realized the potential of investment in robotics technology. The neverending quest to improve productivity, cycle times, and lead time has prompted manufacturers to deploy robotics technology in their operation management cycle. Moreover, industrial robotics have gained significant market share in the retail sector, helping retail business leaders improve in-store customer service, manage retail warehouses, and retain maximum footfall.
For instance, Lowe’s—a California-based retail store—introduced LoweBot in 2016. This autonomous retail robot interacts with in-store customers to help them find goods and related information. The robot also performs real-time inventory tracking and identifies the customer’s shopping patterns. More examples of robots introduced at various retail chains are as follows:
- Target Corporation – Tally by Simple Robotics
- SoftBank Group – Pepper
- Best Buy – Chole Robot
- Domino’s Pizza, Inc. – Domino’s Robotic Unit (DRU) Delivery Robot
Here, the scope of industrial robot applications is shown by percentage. (Image source: Grand View Research)
Additionally, robotics technology has significantly captured the healthcare industry, assisting in dental care, surgeries, research & development, and diagnosing medical problems. For instance, hospitals in San Francisco are using robots called Tugs that deliver food and drugs to the patient as well as pick up waste and laundry.
In Canada, robots are used in hospitals to help children cope with trips to the doctor’s office. The research at Alberta Health Services and the University of Calgary also predicted that the robots may be given new features, such as facial recognition, which can make interactions with patients more personal. In Japan, a robotic medical device called Hybrid Assistive Limb (HAL) is steadily deployed across hospitals in Japan for aiding those with diseases such as amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) and spinal muscular atrophy.
Robotics technology is also gradually capturing significant share in the mining industry, owing to rising safety concerns and the need to automate the mining site. Robotic devices powered with AI can perform a wide range of mining operations, ore sampling, and the rescue of trapped miners. Robotic assistants are deployed at mining sites to analyze the quality of ore samples. They also contribute physical strength and precision.
Furthermore, the adoption of Robotics Process Automation (RPA) provides many benefits in the legal industry. The end-to-end streamlining of existing and new processes and workflows is very attractive to legal service provides, as they have been trying to accomplish it over a long period of time. Moreover, RPA adoption caters to greater effectiveness and productivity, which is expected to transform the quality of legal services on a global scale.
Italy’s industrial robots market is slated to grow through 2020. (Image source: Grand View Research)
As per Grand View Research, the Italian industrial robotics market is expected to capture a revenue share of 9.38% by 2020, which can be attributed to the growing need for automation across major application areas, such as manufacturing, automotive, and chemicals. The country's growing manufacturing sector is expected to provide new growth opportunities for robotics providers. As Italy witnesses the radical transformation from traditional to advanced manufacturing, automation is expected to drive industrial robotics market growth in the country.
The automotive sector also contributes largely to the GDP of Italy, as the county is well known for its automobile designs, which are in high demand globally. The growing need for apt automobile designs, small city cars, supercars, and sports cars has consequently resulted in high demand for robotics in Italy.
Emergence of Robotics-as-a-Service (RaaS) Business Model
With the growing demand for cloud-based storage, the RaaS solution is maintaining an upfront position in the industrial robotics market. The deployment of robots—maintaining and integrating them with multiple databases across the industry vertical—is challenging in terms of effort and budget. This constraint can be addressed by a new business model where the robots are obtainable as a service rather than as a product. The advantages of deploying the RaaS business model are as follows:
- Minimal upfront cost – Because robots are programmed to execute complicated computations on a cloud server, the cost associated with employee adoption is minimal.
- Smarter networks – Robots are part of an intelligent system, which means they can interact with surveillance cameras and RFID antennas, enabling a smarter business network.
- Economies of scale – Organization verticals can deploy a fleet of robots to support multiple business functions, thereby reducing the average cost of ownership. Cloud-based robotics technology enables resource sharing, which further reduces the additional cost incurred by the enterprise.
- Easy upgrade skills – The time required for robots to learn a new skill is less, which means upgrading skills is less time consuming.
Cloud robotics is a new approach in which robots share data and perform computation via networks built on a cloud computing platform. Once connected to the cloud, robots can gain advantage from powerful storage, computation, and communication resources of the modern data center in the cloud, which can share and process information from various machines. Moreover, the adoption of cloud robotics is increasing to augment the capabilities of industrial and service robots.
The Case for Industrial Robots
Robotics is opening a new era in not only quicker production runs, but also in manufacturing customized products that are impossible to produce through traditional methods. Robotics is ushering in a new age of product customization for manufacturers to carry out faster set-up times and meet the mandate of customization and apply these capabilities to continually shrinking product life cycles. Manufacturers are under pressure to highly automate and also recognize the importance of adopting flexible industrial robotics to stay competitive in the marketplace.
Lastly, there are numerous benefits of robotics including plug and play capabilities, speedy ROI rates, and ease of training. Yet the adopters need to ask themselves questions like: How ready are they to incorporate the technology into their operations? And to what extent do their operations have modern automated systems in place? Moreover, the adopters need to be agile and swift in acquiring robotics solutions to remain competitive. They also must be careful in deciding what needs should be automated and what technology needs to be adopted to carry out the selected automation tasks.
Ritika Dhar is a research analyst at Grand View Research. She covers communication technologies and also has expertise in automation, robotics, and the mining industry. Madhuja Patil is a senior research analyst at Grand View Research. She has expertise in the robotics, drone, and satellite industries. Siddhesh Palsule is a lead analyst & consultant at Grand View Research with more than four years of experience in the consumer electronics, next-generation technologies, and ICT domain.
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