ManufacturingJuly 11, 2024

Robotic Adoption Trends in Non-Automotive Industries & SMBs

Robotics adoption is no longer a futuristic concept, but a current necessity for SMBs to thrive. The trends indicate a significant shift towards broader adoption across various industries and business sizes.
Avatar Buddharatn Ratawal

Over the last decade, the manufacturing landscape has evolved significantly, with robotics emerging as a crucial element for small and medium-sized manufacturers (SMBs). Initially hesitant, SMBs now see robotics as essential due to technological advancements, reduced costs, and the pressing need to enhance their workforce. Historically, larger corporations have led in automation adoption, but recent trends show a shift towards SMBs embracing robotics, particularly in non-automotive sectors.

  1. Adoption in non-Automotive industries: Traditionally, the automotive industry dominated robotics adoption. However, the past decade has witnessed a surge in the consumer electronics and high-tech sectors, surpassing the automotive industry in robot integration. This shift indicates that robotics is no longer confined to automotive manufacturing but is expanding across various sectors.
Figure 1: Annual installations of industrial robots by customer industry[1]


2. Earlier adoption by smaller manufacturers: A comparative analysis of early and late adopters reveals that earlier adopters were larger establishments. In contrast, recent adopters are smaller manufacturers, showcasing a broader and more inclusive wave of adoption across different business sizes.
Early adopters, who implemented robotics over a decade ago, tend to be larger establishments with an average employment size of 162. In contrast, late adopters, who embraced robotics within the last ten years, have an average employment size of 48, indicating smaller-scale operations.

Figure 2: Comparison of early- and late-robot adopters[1]

Robotics is “table stakes”

Given these trends, it is evident that adopting robotics is now table stakes for SMBs to remain competitive. Robotics adoption is not merely an optional enhancement but a critical step for survival and growth in the modern manufacturing landscape.

Robotics as a necessity:

  • Competitive Edge: To maintain a competitive edge, SMBs must integrate robotics to enhance productivity, quality, and efficiency.
  • Technological Advancements: As technology advances, the cost of robotics continues to decrease, making it accessible to smaller manufacturers.
  • Workforce Augmentation: Robotics helps in addressing labor shortages and enhancing the capabilities of the existing workforce.

Complexity Beyond Purchase:

  • Know-How and Integration: The decision to adopt robotics is complex and extends beyond purchasing a robot. It involves understanding the integration process, potential risks, and the need for comprehensive planning and analysis.
  • Customization and Fit: Each manufacturing process is unique, and off-the-shelf solutions may not align with specific needs. Customization and proper alignment with existing systems are crucial.
  • Organizational Changes: Adopting robotics necessitates changes in organizational structure, workforce skills, and processes. SMBs must invest in training and development to equip their staff with the necessary skills to operate and maintain robotic systems.

Comprehensive Planning:

  • Financial Projections: A thorough financial analysis, including initial investment, ongoing operational expenses, potential savings, and ROI, is essential.
  • Risk Mitigation: Identifying potential risks, such as infrastructure adjustments and workforce changes, allows for proactive planning and mitigation strategies.
  • System Integration: Ensuring compatibility and synchronization with existing systems is vital to avoid disruptions and inefficiencies.

The bottom line

Robotics adoption is no longer a futuristic concept, but a current necessity for SMBs to thrive. The trends indicate a significant shift towards broader adoption across various industries and business sizes. However, the journey involves more than just purchasing robotic equipment. It requires a deep understanding of the integration process, organizational changes, and comprehensive planning to ensure successful implementation and realization of benefits. By approaching robotics adoption with a strategic, informed mindset, SMBs navigate complexities and leverage automation for sustained growth and competitiveness.

Start your robotics journey

To learn about the practical and detailed steps involved in adopting robotics, download our comprehensive eBook. Moving from the initial implementation to full integration. Discover the framework for your robotic journey. It details the planning, implementation, and post-implementation stages of robotic adoption in manufacturing businesses, making the entire process seem almost effortless.

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