In the face of ongoing labor shortages, increasing customer demands, growing economic uncertainty and strategic reshoring initiatives, more companies are looking into robotic automation to fulfill strategic initiatives. Likewise, rapid technological advancements in artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning, as well as the dawn of more flexible, efficient and easy-to-program robots, continue to prompt greater automation usage that brings highly relevant applications to life.
While robots have become commonplace tools for many factory tasks, advancing markets and unique requirements are prompting usage for a wider variety of applications. With the global robotics market expected to grow 15% by 20321
, it should be no surprise that robots will be implemented in a wider range of industries. For 2024 and beyond, individuals should be on the lookout for greater robot utilization in the following industries:
Proven to bolster manufacturing for trailers, tractors and other farm equipment, industrial robots are being used in other ways to fulfill pressing tasks for agriculture today. From dairy farming to next-gen farming, an array of applications can benefit from these virtual workhorses.
Expected to grow at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of nearly 26% by 20292
, the vertical farming market is set to thrive, and intelligent robotic automation is primed to address common labor-intensive tasks such as seed planting, crop pruning and crop harvesting. Companies, like as 80 Acres Farms and Oishii, are already using robotic automation in this space and revolutionizing the farm-to-table concept as we know it. Plus, these “farms of the future” are helping to reduce the need for GMO, pesticides and other chemicals needed for outdoor farming – thanks to controlled climates. Similarly, these facilities can easily be placed closer to metro areas for lesser shipping and fresher produce.
While some outdoor farming operations have managed to successfully utilize robotic automation (i.e., cobots
) for smart crop harvesting, these operations are often limited where power access and other utilities are concerned. Also, vertical farming provides greater repeatability for using a wide range of mechatronics compared to the uneven topography and variables found outdoors. As more sustainable technologies are developed and perfected, the use of robots will most likely grow in this space.
Used traditionally for processing and handling in the food and beverage
industry, robots are now aiding restaurant workers in multiple ways. With 51% of restaurant operators relaying that staffing is a top challenge due to extremely high turnover 3
, they are looking to automated solutions to ease the job gap and better manage operations. From food prep to serving food, pioneering AI along with versatile and reliable robots is facilitating highly productive yet people-friendly restaurant environments. Miso Robotics, for example, markets Flippy – a smart industrial kitchen robot that fries anything from french fries to chicken nuggets. Using proprietary and patent-protected AI, this robotic system is designed to retrofit existing kitchens and work alongside humans to enhance quality and consistency, while helping restaurants meet challenging demands and save on costs.
As the job gap and market pressures persists, more automation will be used in these settings to complete highly repetitive tasks. Overall, food service robots can be a win-win, redeploying food prep staff to more front-of store tasks that better serve customer needs to create a more positive dining experience.
General Industry / High Deposition Welding
Onshoring and labor shortages continue to prompt greater robot usage for fabrication and general industry tasks. This is especially true for high deposition welding, as well as the welding of complex parts. All companies, even those already familiar with robotic automation (i.e., automotive manufacturers), are eager to find ways of sustaining production rates – with company leaders taking a second look to those applications that were once deemed poor automation candidates. Collaborative robots, as well as other ease-of-use programming tools are a key driver for this, making applications easier than before, especially for non-robot users. Regardless of robot type, an uptick in automation is being seen for a variety of reasons, benefitting a range of companies including those in the railroad, ship building and construction industries.
In regard to the concept of high deposition welding, there are various tools and equipment that are enabling robotic welding success for these long arc-on fabrications. For example, the use of metal-cored wire for Gas Metal Arc Welding (GMAW) is helping to increase torch travel speeds for increased efficiency and stable wire transfer, and robust weld torches, like the Miller®
Hercules™, can preheat specially formulated metal core filler metals filler metals that are made to work in unison for tackline heavy fabrication tasks. Select manufacturers also use the dual-wire process, known as HyperFill™, which allows operators to create large welds at faster speeds with greater ease. Introduced by Lincoln Electric®
, this GMAW weld method uses two smaller diameter wires to produce a larger weld droplet and wide arc cone, generating a large weld puddle that is easier to control.
As pharma is on the rise, the use of high-performance robots in the medical field are fulfilling advanced capabilities for better patient and medicine production outcomes. A key part of this is the use of robots for lab automation – which is expected to see steady growth between now and 20284
. Well-suited at meeting high throughput demands, while helping to address persistent technician shortages, robotic solutions can improve, speed, capacity and accuracy for pre- and post-analytical processes
. Systems for bulk loading, container scanning, thaw and mix, centrifuge cycle, decapping, foil sealing, aliquoting, recapping, and check-in/check-out are all available.
Logistics / Inspection
With incredible growth seen in this space over the last few years, more can still be expected – with the logistics
sector anticipated to experience a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of nearly 6% by 20325
. This is especially true for parcel sortation, warehousing, pick and place tasks, and most likely, for container/truck loading and unloading as well. Task-based AI driven robotics systems geared toward the robot controller level will be key to improvements in efficiency for many of these applications moving forward. Advances in peripheral technologies, such as conveyors, scanners and other hardware will also contribute to the success of these tasks.
Similarly, look for more discussion on how task-based AI driven robotics will enhance the inspection process. Not always automated due to the high costs of sensors and the computer technology needed to make these applications work, robotic inspection for welding and painting is expected to evolve positively in the near future. Other tasks, like produce inspection and circuit board evaluation, may also benefit from innovative improvements in this space.
The Pivotal Shift Toward Robotic Automation
As the era of digital transformation continues to optimize technology, more companies throughout nearly every industry will benefit. Moreover, companies that successfully pivot toward these innovative solutions will be strategically poised when disruption strikes and as skilled labor becomes more challenging to replace.
Whether a solution includes rolling up a collaborative robot to a large weldment to supplement manual welding or it entails the integration of a completely turnkey robotic system to process parts for high-mix, low-volume fabrication, the use of high-performance robot arms is proven to address multiple challenges on the production floor. Similarly, robotic automation is making strides in nearly every industry, minimizing pain points for tasks within farming, food service, lab automation, logistics and elsewhere.
To learn how flexible, efficient and reliable robotic solutions can impact your throughput and quality, contact our experts
1 Robotics Market Report by Product Type, IMARC, 2024
2 Vertical Farming Market Worth, Fortune Business Insights, 2022
3 Restaurant Success Report, Toast, 2019
4 Clinical Laboratory Services Market Size & Share Analysis, Mordor Intelligence, 2024
5 Global Logistics Market to Exceed $16T by 2032, SupplyChainBrain, 2023