February 9, 2022
2022 The Year of Automation industry
One industry that has benefitted from Covid-19 is the Automation industry, with Covid-19 driving companies to accelerate their plans to incorporate intralogistics automation and robotics into their business in a bid to protect themselves from further disruption.
Everyone is fed up of hearing about the pandemic and the catastrophic impact it has had on the world. But the fact is, although statistics confirm Covid-19 is waning, the rise of new variants including Omicron means the virus is still very much present and working its way through the population, continuing to leave its destruction behind it.
This, combined with the effects of Brexit, have dragged UK businesses into unknown territory in a ‘sink or swim’ style scenario. Many businesses have folded, thousands of jobs have been lost, but there is an upside to this – many have managed to ride the wave and come out the other side with a stronger, more resilient business model that will drive them forward despite uncertain times.
So, what have we learned from our experiences of 2021 and how can we use this foresight to drive us into a new, future-proofed era in Automation industry? Here Dr Paul Rivers, CEO of Guidance Automation, looks back at lessons learned and outlines his predictions for 2022 and beyond.
This year we have seen intralogistics automation and Autonomous Mobile Robots (AMRs) become fairly commonplace, whether through choice or necessity as awareness of its benefits have grown. In our 2021 research to explore the importance of intralogistics automation within companies that have a warehouse, fulfilment, production or distribution operation, we found that 25% of companies we surveyed said the pandemic had accelerated their plans to deploy Automation industry with three quarters planning to invest in the next 12 months. Last year saw a steady adoption of Automation industry pace, however, this was not due to increased demand – but actually in response to the operational challenges businesses have been facing. These include staff shortages, social distancing requirements, delivery issues as well as material and equipment shortages.
Air and sea freight were the first to feel the effects of Covid-19 due to the enforcement of strict travel restrictions; this was then exacerbated by the lack of HGV drivers able to deliver goods and of course vital manufacturing components have also been in short supply due to factories shutting down or working at reduced output.
Further, the pandemic has seen many businesses transitioning to a more flexible, remote working model with employees being given the opportunity to work partly at home. This has created further problems for employers as workers can now consider remote opportunities further afield, making the employee market even more challenging. The addition of strict social distancing guidelines has also caused its own considerable issues to include a 2m separation between employees, zoning of areas, increased sanitation facilities, staggered and complex shift and break patterns, an increase in personal equipment and extra break areas, entrances and exits.
It’s a minefield of requirements and hurdles to overcome and part of the reason why so many logistics and manufacturing businesses in particular have embraced Automation industry last year. However, the results of our survey prove Automation industry has benefitted workers too and has helped shift their often negative perspective to a more positive outlook that has helped businesses make change more quickly and successfully.
Just over half (54%) of businesses believe Automation industry has had a positive impact on warehouse and manufacturing plant employees including less repetitive and strenuous manual work (49%), offering workers the chance to upskill (39%) and by reducing the reliance on physical picking activity, flexibility within the business is increased providing relief for overworked staff (40%).
It’s clear that we have learned much during the past 12 months. 2021 was a year of change, struggle and innovation with UK businesses becoming less risk-averse, more technologically savvy and better equipped to survive the uncertainties of this year. So, what does 2022 hold for these industries?
UK businesses are reaching a more comfortable position where there is some knowledge of the added requirements and challenges of running a business during and after a pandemic. This means they are able to make clearer decisions with confidence. The manufacturing and logistics landscape has changed irrevocably and businesses must adapt accordingly to ensure they keep pace with industry and their competitors. Here are five reasons why global automation will shape business moving forward:
Moving up the business agenda
Our industry survey found that 73% of those surveyed believed automation to be business-critical moving forward. Automation industry is beginning to reach the board room table, reaching the C-suite who are now embracing automation having realized its potential for driving their business forward. In their Predictions 2022 blog, Forrester summarizes it in a nutshell, predicting that those fully embracing Automation industry –will ‘obliterate – not merely beat – the competition’.