The industrial automation sector was not in a great place before COVID-19 struck, having been slowed by flat capital expenditure and declining industrial production, says GlobalData, a data and analytics company. The virus has since closed factory after factory worldwide with workers sent home. The reality is that despite much hype over the years, advanced factory automation has not been substituted for human workers at scale.
David Bicknell, principal analyst, Thematic Research at GlobalData, comments, “By the time it expires, COVID-19 may have served to at last accelerate an investment in factory automation when the global economy eventually rebounds. But that will take a while.”
Organizations that invested in robotics as part of their automation strategy will have found themselves more likely to keep on running when COVID-19 struck.
Bicknell continues, “The fallout from COVID-19 will now focus organizations on the need to automate faster in the medium term, not least to help bridge the productivity gap. Projects like Industry 4.0, which encompass both the cyber and physical worlds, will attempt to tackle the world’s continuity productivity shortfall. It is a pressing task, made all the more urgent by COVID-19. Had business moved with more alacrity and determination when it had the opportunity, it would be in a different place. Those that missed the boat will have the motivation to prepare themselves better for future crises.
“Inside China’s COVID-19 clogged supply chain and beyond, it’s clear that preventing future plant shutdowns means making a greater investment in robotics and automation. In recent years, China has bought more robots than any other country, especially collaborative robots (co-bots). It will now have to start putting them to work.”