Industrial automation and robotics have been increasingly finding their space. But, at the same time, they are facing a massive talent shortage.
As companies worldwide face talent shortages, especially technology talent, they are adopting an interesting array of strategies from increased outsourcing to increased investments in intelligent automation (artificial intelligence-driven automation), low/no-code platforms, and redesigning work itself for a digital-human future of work. Recent US labour data showed that there were roughly two vacancies per unemployed worker, with many firms still struggling with shortages.
Wages, in turn, are rising as companies compete for staff, fueling concerns of a wage-price spiral as businesses charge more for their products, leading workers to demand even higher pay. Employers are rolling out huge automation initiatives to counter what some call ‘the tyranny of talent.’
Industrial automation grows at a 9% CAGR
The size of the global industrial automation market reached some US%175 billion in 2020. The market is expected to grow at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of around 9% until 2025. In 2025, the size of the global industrial automation market should reach roughly US$265 billion, per a Statista report. The global low-code development platform market size is expected to reach US$35.2 billion by 2030, registering a CAGR of 22.9% from 2022 to 2030, according to ResearchandMarkets.
Huge shortage of software developers
According to Evans Data Corporation, a California-based market research firm, there is a global shortage of software developers. Currently, there are almost 26.9 million developers in the world, with an expected need for 38 million by 2024. The total number of world developers is expected to reach 28.7 million by 2024, leaving a shortfall of more than 9 million engineers. Suddenly, low-code and no-code platforms that could potentially create citizen developers across an enterprise who can make and launch simple applications without the need for developer support seemed a lot more attractive.
New eurozone data showed the unemployment rate falling below 6.6 per cent of the workforce for the first time. The strength of the labour market and the risk of wages rising sharply have fueled calls for the European Central Bank to accelerate interest rate rises, with a possible 0.75 percentage point increase next week. Eurozone inflation is currently at a record 9.1 per cent, way above the ECB’s target of 2 per cent.
80% say automation investment will increase
A survey by UiPath, a global software company that makes robotic process automation software, found that almost 62% of surveyed executives admitted to struggling with the current labour shortage, with 69% of them losing skilled people to manage necessary tasks. As a solution, 78% of executives said they’re likely to invest or increase their investment in automation or artificial intelligence (AI) tools to manage the impact of higher-than-normal turnover rates.
Of those surveyed, 83% said their companies currently invest in and/or use automation or AI tools. Now, executives are applying the technology’s benefits to help offset the challenges of ongoing labour shortages. Specifically, surveyed executives believe automation is helping their companies perform better by saving time (71%), improving productivity (63%), and saving money (59%). The benefits enable their organizations to uphold the production status quo even while temporarily short-staffed.
Intelligent Automation is key to competitive advantage
In collaboration with Oxford Economics, the IBM Institute for Business Value conducted a comprehensive study to discover more about the impacts of intelligent automation initiatives today and in the near future. The survey posed questions related to automation investments, priorities, benefits, and impact to 1,500 executives around the world, representing 21 industries in 26 countries. This report shares their insights, strategies, and future plans. The survey found that 79% of organizations are scaling intelligent automation and expect their organization to outperform the competition in revenue growth within the next three years.
Foundational automation typically includes basic task and activity-based automation, fueled by software algorithms. It removes the need to perform repetitive and rules-based tasks involving structured data manually. Advanced automation brings together humans and machines to integrate multiple systems and executive functions across an enterprise. Supporting more complex processes, advanced automation relies on unstructured data coupled with machine learning, natural language processing, and analysis.
Intelligent automation is guided by AI capabilities and performs actions requiring minimal routine human interventions—including monitoring, alerts, scheduled events, and data/analytical tasks. It encompasses the reasoning and learning abilities of cognitive computing to analyze large bodies of operational information, recognize patterns from multiple sources, and execute accordingly.
Applied in concert, technologies such as AI, automation, IoT, blockchain, and 5G enable organizations to optimize and customize workflows. And these technologies are maturing to a point where they can be deployed and exploited at scale. For example, AI implementations are on the rise, with 55% of respondents planning to increase AI investments in the next three years. Forty-four per cent of respondents say their organizations will increase robotics investments. Edge computing and 5G investments are also expected to increase, while augmented/virtual reality investments will remain steady.
Industrial robot shipments grow exponentially
Manufacturing companies are also automating at a rapid clip by investing in industrial robots. After the disruptions of the trade conflict, the COVID-19 pandemic, and ongoing supply chain and workforce challenges, sales of industrial robots made a strong recovery in 2021, reported to the International Federation of Robotics. A new record of 486,800 units was shipped globally—an increase of 27% compared with the previous year. The Americas increased by 27%, with 49,400 units sold. Asia and Australia saw the largest growth in demand: Installations were up 33%, reaching 354,500 units. Europe saw double-digit growth of 15%, with 78,000 units installed, according to the International Federation of Robotics’ (IFR) preliminary results for 2021.
Robot installations worldwide recovered strongly, making 2021 the most successful year ever for the robotics industry. Due to the ongoing trend toward automation and continued technological innovation, demand reached high levels across industries. In 2021, even the pre-pandemic record of 422,000 installations per year in 2018 was exceeded.
Low/No-Code market to grow at 31% CAGR
Meanwhile, the global low code development platform market is projected to grow from US$13.89 billion in 2021 to US$94.75 billion by 2028 at a CAGR of 31.6%. The market is expected to grow in the coming years, owing to an increase in demand for technological advancements for business digitalization. The global low code development platform market size was US$10.82 billion in 2020. The market size is expected to rise from US$13.89 billion in 2021 to US$94.75 billion by 2028 at a CAGR of 31.6% during the forecast period, per a report titled “Low Code Development Platform Market Share, 2021-2028” published by Fortune Business Insights.
A low code development platform provides simplified and seamless techniques for professional business development to build an effective business application. Several industries are expanding their business through technological advancements, which is expected to fuel market growth. These platforms are majorly used for developing applications for small-scale and large-scale businesses.
According to the State of Low Code Report 2021, in the U.S., 77% of the companies implement low code platforms and 3 out of 5 employees utilize these platforms to develop business applications. The Asia Pacific holds the second-largest global market position and is expected to witness a significant growth rate during the forecast period. According to the 2020 Software Survey of Asia Pacific, more than 50% of the companies implement low code platforms.
(Abhijit Roy is a technology explainer and business journalist. He has worked with Strait Times of Singapore, Business Today, Economic Times and The Telegraph. Also worked with PwC, IBM, Wipro, Ericsson.)
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