Robots Will Carry Out About 25% of Manufacturing Activity Over the Next Decade: Study

The future of industrial manufacturing clearly belongs to robots, and a strong start in this direction has already rolled off. A new study by the Boston Consulting Group states that industrial robotics are currently at an ‘inflection point’ where the cost of deploying industrial robots is going down and the improved capabilities of these machines are making them suited for use in almost every area of manufacturing. The study predicts that over the coming decade, about 25% of all industrial manufacturing activity will be carried out by robots. This marks a 15% rise from 2015 figures.

While some parts of the world will show a rather brisk pace of adoption of industrial robots, others will be slow to jump on to the robotics and automation bandwagon. The rate of adoption will be higher in regions such as Canada, where the cost of labor is currently very steep and the relevant laws are flexible. Much of Canada’s manufacturing base lies in transportation, making it a sector that will likely switch to robotics at a much faster pace.

As deployment of robots surges, there will be improvements in costs, especially in the United States, finds the report. The tipping point for this industry will not be reached until cost competitiveness is achieved because investments in robotic systems can be a very expensive proposition.

However, trends already show this happening. In the last few years alone, costs have dipped. For instance, Baxter, a new robot, costs less than US$30,000 and can carry out tasks such as packaging bottles. As more industries deploy Baxter, its costs are expected to slide by about 20% whereas performance will increase by about 5% annually over the next decade. 

As robotic labour gets cheaper and human labor becomes more expensive, the manufacturing industry could well be at a tipping point. However, the greatest flipside of this trend will be the potentially massive levels of unemployment – something that industry stakeholders need to balance.


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